Somewhere about 1956, Wayne “The Train” Hancock turned off his radio and never turned it back on. What’s that? He’s not that old? Well, you couldn’t prove it by the Texan’s recorded output, including this live set from Austin’s fabled Continental Club. By now, Hancock has a definable sound, usually described as latter-day Hank Williams — and that comes from Hank III, who credits Hancock’s sound for inspiring his own.
Hancock probably can’t help it: He opens his mouth and there it is. His song selection here and elsewhere shows a penchant for the anachronistic, typified by the hidden bonus track, the classic “Summertime”, a duet with Rebecca Snow.
His songwriting on Swing Time sticks to the honky-tonk formula that gives his musicians free hands at improvisation. Guitarists Paul Skelton and Dave Biller pluck clever melodies and solos upside down and backward on “Louisiana Blues” and “Flatland Boogie”, while slap bassist Rick Ramirez has a big old time on “Big City Good Time Gal”. Hancock, strumming rockabilly rhythm licks, sings with conviction.
But has Hancock grown as an artist since Thunderstorms And Neon Signs came out of nowhere in 1995? Can he get past the past? The jury’s still out on that — but anyone this authentic has a lot to offer in these inauthentic times.