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Wayne Hancock - Thunderstorms and Neon Signs

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There are moments on Wayne Hancock's debut album, 1996's Thunderstorms and Neon Signs, where you could swear that the risen ghost of Hank Williams had somehow found its way into this sawed-off drifter from Texas; but beyond the unavoidable vocal similarity between Hancock and Williams, what the two really have in common is a heartfelt love of the honky tonk tradition and a real gift for making the style sound fresh and vital. While the spare, mostly acoustic arrangements on Thunderstorms and Neon Signs are clearly modeled on classic country sounds of the '40s and '50s (with a dash of Western swing thrown in, mostly audible in the occasional appearance of horns), Hancock never sounds like he's aiming for a "retro" sound; this is just what he does, he couldn't sound different if he tried, and there's just enough texture in his rough edges and fiery enthusiasm to convince anyone this isn't a pose, but the real thing. Even better, Hancock can write in the classic style with a breezy confidence and a keen eye for the details. If "Juke Joint Jumping" and "She's My Baby" aren't exactly startlingly original, they show Hancock can find fresh inspiration in traditional country frameworks; while the roadside poetry of the title cut really is something special; and "Double A Daddy" may be one of the only great honky tonk tunes about staying on the wagon. Producer Lloyd Maines and a handful of superb pickers give these songs just the right support, but it's Hancock who's the star of this show, and Thunderstorms and Neon Signs shows he's got the guts, sass, and talent to bring honky tonk music back to America's dancehalls, where it belongs. ~ Mark Deming

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Thunderstorms and Neon Signs | Wayne Hancock