Viper of Melody
Like any good Southerner, there are a few things that I have no shame in taking a shine to. One being whiskey, the second is wearing cowboy boots year round, and the third is good country music. I am not talking about CMT, Nashville FM, or pop country. I am talking about the real deal country music that makes you want to throw on your cowboy hat and Sunday finest, grab your gal and head to the nearest honky tonk for a night of cold beer, two-stepping, and everything in between. Thank God there are still a few good souls still making a racket that has the twang, attitude, and gumption to still be considered true country music, artists who are keeping the sound and genre alive for those of us who prefer things the way they once were. A legend in the alternative world of country and rockabilly music, if there is such a thing, is Wayne "The Train" Hancock keeps the true country spirit alive with others including Hank Williams III. Hancock's newest album, Viper of Melody, is indeed some of the sweetest sounding music this year that will keep the toes tapping and glasses full.
Described as the "world's finest purveyor of juke joint swing", the album proves that he is indeed just that. This album swings its ass off and would it damn near impossible for anyone to sit still during a listen, especially in a juke joint. Vipers of Melody is the perfect backdrop for sitting belly up to the bar in dim lit room, illuminated only by the neon beer signs and swirling jukebox lights, and enjoying only the finest of frosty beverages with your best gal or gals. The music on this album is not "outlaw country" per say, but most definitely the music of outlaws. This music swings, Texas swings that is, and is not jazz by any stretch of the imagination. Mix in the perfect amount of blues and rockabilly influence and there you have the noise of The Train. If I had to sum up Hancock's sound with Viper's of Melody, I would have to say it sounds like Hank Williams Sr. fronting a paired down version of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys. The Train's voice has the perfect amount of twang and old-time grit to bring to mind the aforementioned godfather in country music in addition to other legends including Jimmie Rogers. Every song on Vipers of Melody except one was penned by Hancock himself and further proves his greatness in the songwriting arena. These are songs of good times and bad, heartbreak and hell-raising all bundled into one package that is surely to be one of 2009's greatest releases. Highlights for me include the boogie-woogie of "Jump the Blues" and "Freight Train Boogie", and the weeping steel lines and heartbreak of Jimmy Campbell's "Midnight Stars and You."
Do yourself a favor and get this record. -Andrew Bryant