THE UNDISPUTED KING OF JUKE JOINT SWING—that alchemist’s dream of honky-tonk, western swing, blues, Texas rockabilly and big band – Wayne “The Train” Hancock has been, in his own words, “the stab wound in the fabric of country music” since his stunning debut, Thunderstorms and Neon Signs, in 1995. Always an anomaly among his country music peers, Wayne’s uncompromising interpretation of the music he loves is in fact what defines him: steeped in traditional but never ‘retro’; bare bones but bone shaking; hardcore but with a swing. Like the comfortable crackle of a Wurlitzer jukebox 45, Wayne is the embodiment of genuine, roof-raising, music that defies genres and expectations and just plain delivers the goods with a kick in the butt and a twist of the hips.
Wayne’s latest effort, Tulsa—his third for Bloodshot Records and first studio record since 2001—is a testament to the version of America he loves, one populated with lonesome desert highways, cheap hotels, dancehalls, and lost love. Wayne Hancock personifies the two great American inventions of jazz and country and creates his own style of uncompromising western swing; as much Gershwin as Hank; equal parts Art Blakley and Bob Wills. Tulsa is another addition to Wayne’s stellar canon of musical documentation of an America not spliced into red and blue, but one where in any town, on any given night, with the right soundtrack, you can still take a real top shelf girl out for a spin and knock back a couple of cold ones.
In typical Wayne fashion, Tulsa was put to tape in two and a half days, capturing the band at their livest and loosest. Recorded by longtime producer and ally, Lloyd Maines (Wilco, Joe Ely, Richard Buckner, Uncle Tupelo, Dixie Chicks), Tulsa is spurred on Wayne’s signature ‘call-outs’ to his crack cast of players—Eddie Biebel, Dave Biller, Paul Skelton (lead guitar), Chris Darrell (doghouse bass), Eddie Rivers (steel guitar), Bob Stafford (trombone), John Doyle (clarinet).
As Route 66 is celebrated in Tulsa as a living bloodline of American music, “The Train” is its wandering, troubadour spirit. Every call-out, every horn burst, every improvised, seat-of-the-pants 2 hour show, casts Wayne Hancock as something bigger than just “country,” or just “retro”—something so vintage American that the two can’t (and don’t want to) be seperated.
With the blacktop as his muse, there is perhaps no more apt ambassador for the open road than Wayne. No surprise, since the two spend so much time together: Wayne routinely tours 200 plus days a year in his trusty Swing van. Bringing his traveling juke joint revival to every town between Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon, Wayne and his band can turn any club into a dance hall were tables and chairs are not only not a necessity, but an outright hindrance.
Longtime supporter and tour mate, Hank III appears with Wayne on a version of his “Juke Joint Jumping” on last year’s Bloodshot compilation, For A Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records.