Country music, for all intents and purposes, is dead. Yet out in the margins of the hideous "new" country there exist the beleaguered hardcore faithful, who still strum and twang as though today's babes-and-boys video-driven Nashville has all but been erased from the musical map. Wayne Hancock is an ex-Marine from Texas who harbors more that just a chip on his shoulder about the way Nashville's powers-that-be have treated his beloved country music. In fact, Hancock, in true Texan fashion, decided to take matters into his own hands a few years back with the release of his first record, 1995's Thunderstorms and Neon Signs
. A startling, fierce, and fantastic set of country-swing blues, Thunderstorms
happened to feature a title track that could easily be considered one of the finest single works in any
genre in the past 10 years. His iconoclastic purism has made Hancock somewhat of a pariah in Nashville circles (he makes no bones about his ill will toward the town and the industry), and he takes pride in bowing to no trends. He's built a fan base by touring relentlessly (often between 250 and 300 days a year) and releasing records independently. Recording and touring with a simple lineup of guitar, steel guitar, and upright bass, Hancock has established a career that allows him continued control over the quality and direction of his work. It's also a career that's spawned four consecutive albums of sturdy, uncompromising, and original country music.