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Slingin' Rhythm

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Album Review

In his liner notes to the album Slingin' Rhythm, producer and Dobro master Lloyd Maines talks about working with retro-country artist Wayne Hancock: "I don't hear much from Wayne in between records. He just calls me up and says, 'Hey man, I've got a bunch of new songs so I'm ready to make another record.' I always know it's going to be another 'Wayne Adventure' and I'm always ready for it." Maines' statement points to the key subtext found in all of Hancock's albums: They're always the same and always different. Hancock is a honky tonk man who has his own very specific ideas about country music, and you're not going to hear strings, drums, or pedal steel guitar on his albums if he can possibly help it. 2016's Slingin' Rhythm follows the Wayne Hancock template to the letter, featuring a batch of simple but lively tunes that look back to the glory days of Hank Williams and Bob Wills, sung with rough authority by the songwriter as a bunch of fine guitarists provide the twangy backdrop. What sets Slingin' Rhythm apart is that it is Hancock's first album since recovering from a serious motorcycle accident in 2014, and his vocals sound just a shade weaker than they did on his 2013 release Ride. However, Hancock is no less spirited than he's ever been (which is more important than his instrument), and his tales of busted romances, life on the road, and uncomfortable weather have his trademark degree of spunk, heart, and rough and tumble wit. Hancock and Maines rounded up a fine set of pickers for these sessions, especially steel guitarist Rose Sinclair and electric guitarists Bart Weinburg and Greg Harkins, and their work here pushes Hancock into fourth gear. And Hancock is good enough at what he does that he can keep delivering albums that follow a similar path while giving them enough swagger that they never lose their appeal. Just as fellow Texan Willie Nelson can find endlessly worthy variations in his musical formula, Wayne Hancock makes records that always satisfy like a cold drink on a hot day, even if they're stylistically cut from the same cloth, and Slingin' Rhythm is another Hancock Adventure that delivers the goods.


Born: May 1, 1965 in Rockne, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Alternative country favorite Wayne Hancock is that rare breed of traditionalist: one who imbues his retro obsessions with such high energy and passion that his songs never feel like museum pieces he's trying desperately to preserve. Hancock is most often compared to Hank Williams, and he can indeed be a hardcore honky tonker, but there's more to him than that: he also displays a genuine affinity for stomping rockabilly, Western swing, blues, and old-timey country à la Jimmie Rodgers. Plus, he also...
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