Wayne Hancock moves beyond the shadow of Hank
House of Blues, Cambridge, Mass. Aug. 23, 1999
By Jeffrey B. Remz
CAMBRIDGE, MA - Earlier in his career, Wayne Hancock could easily have been labelled the bastard musical son of Hank Williams. He had the Hank beat & vocal style down pretty well.
But the Train has moved beyond the Son of Hank appellation, quite well thank you with lots of jazzy western stylings, rockabilly, country and a tinge of blues as evidenced by his very generous 2 1/4-hour concert.
The strong suite of Hancock, touring off the very fine Ark 21 Records disc "Wild, Free & Reckless," is his voice. While he certainly mumbles in his between song comments - never his strong point - give Hancock a band (no drums, of course, thank you) and he just takes off. While he said afterwards that his voice was a bit strained, you would never have known it from the show.
He puts his all into the songs. Doesn't matter the style. Hancock is adept at all of them. And to his credit, he also does a great job with covers. He doesn't merely rehash and spit out the covers as if he were a jukebox trying not to offend He put is own signature on them.
When you're going to tackle "Honky Tonk Blues" or "Jambalaya," you'd better do something a bit different than Hank. Frank Sinatra would have been proud of Hancock's version of "My Shadow and Me."
And of course "Route 66" is so well known, but Hancock switched the beat around and personalized it. instead of pronouncing "Route" as in "root," Hancock also changed that by saying "Rowt."
Hancock was backed by a strong back-up band of Eric Hokkanen on guitar and fiddle, Dave Ketchum on upright bass and Bob Stafford on guitar and trombone. Hancock let them play out, expanding the horizons of each song without needless noodling. Each had a chance to shine throughout with Ketchum being particularly active, slappoing his upright.
Hancock has moved well beyond his musical upbringing, still making enjoyable music.