Wayne Hancock 

Viper of Melody

Some folks hold with the concept that rock 'n' roll was created by African Americans and usurped and exploited by Caucasians — wrong. Rock 'n' roll was wrought by combinations of sounds from black and white culture, from blues, R&B, and gospel of the former and the country, Western swing, rockabilly, and hillbilly boogie (a precursor to rockabilly) of the latter.

Without coming off as a self-aggrandizing throwback, Texan Wayne Hancock literally embodies the "hillbilly" aspect of the equation. With a palette consisting solely of acoustic, electric, and steel guitars and acoustic (upright) bass and a rough-hewn vocal drawl somewhat reminiscent of the young Hank Williams Sr., Hancock and ensemble sound as if they've emerged from an Oklahoma oil-field honky tonk circa 1954. While Viper of Melody is produced by studio pro Lloyd Maines (daddy of one of the Dixie Chicks), there's none of the pop polish that's neutered and gutted country music for the past decade or two. Just as cool, Hancock doesn't sound nearly as mannered as some of his neo-rockabilly contemporaries — his style is based in pre-Countrypolitan/Nash Vegas country music (i.e., Williams, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce) more than in rockabilly.

But he can and does rock, make no mistake. The chugging "High Rolling Train" has a crackling six-string solo that wouldn't be out of place on an early Beatles session. Several of the steel-guitar solos reflect a bit of suave jazz influence, too. Compared to the American Idol-esque pap passing itself off as country music, Viper of Melody is as intensely raw and subversive as the first albums by the Clash and Ramones. (Bloodshot)

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