Wayne Hancock

Come election time, some presidential hopeful always utters the words, There are two Americas. That's not only true for the haves and have-nots, but also for country music. There exists the America that goes ga-ga for photogenic girls and boys performing watered-down power pop with a hint of twang, and then there's this other nation that wants country music to uphold the standards of hillbilly soul and hick cool, as established by the holy trinity of Hank Sr., Webb Pierce, and Hank Thompson.

Texan Wayne Hancock is favored by the latter. Hell, he's practically its patron saint. Without any retro jive, Hancock plays hardcore honky-tonk. With a natural drawl that could slice butter, he draws freely from rockabilly and western swing, which was perhaps the first American genre to really fuse black and white (swing jazz and C&W). Because Hancock's music is so rhythmically vigorous, he can't even hold on to a full-time drummer. As for recording, Wayne "The Train" says, "I record live. My first record took approximately a week. My second album took three days." And what about country radio? "It doesn't really matter, because all my fans don't listen to the radio. So it's not actually that bad . . . not being played on the radio."

What a guy!