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Wayne "The Train" Hancock

Swing Time
Bloodshot Records

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Wayne Hancock's East Texas verbal twang gets me ever'a time. So does that relentless acoustic-guitar strum his must-be-badly-calloused thumb picks out. And the deceitfully simple, gutsy rhyming punches of his lyrics. Oh, and the jumpin', swingin', slappin' bass lines that act as both stride-left-hand piano and trap-kit drummer. Hell, ever'a'thing about Hancock's back-to-basics Hank Williams train ride is brilliant.

But none'a' that can really explain the Wayne Hancock on Swing Time; see, this is Wayne performing in his Austin hometown, at his Continental Club home base. As he's playin', the reformed boozehound swills a six-pack or more of Coke, his uncomfortable stage demeanor at odds with his crude-laugh personality; his Napoleonic stature matched by an imperial constitution (Hancock plays 'til he's damn well done, and sometimes that's hours). Swing Time captures some of that vivacious nature, kicking from revved-up swingers like "Big City Good Time Girl" to the jazzy "We Three" and on to an excellent version of Hancock's signature melancholy ballad, "Thunderstorms and Neon Signs."

But beyond its simple swing-a-billy genius, this piecemeal "Best Of" collection of note-perfect renditions will please ever'a' one, but may not appease too many hardcore fans. Where're the arcs and troughs of a real show? The ramshackle raucousness of an increasingly caffeinated, chaotic set? The zealot's passion that accompanies Hancock's mad-scientist rockabilly? Everyone with an interest in American roots music should have Swing Time, but maybe the fans deserve a little more -- something with less "well, alright!" and a little more "yeeee, haw!"

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