The legendary Big Bill Broonzy once said, “Blues is a natural fact, is something that a fellow lives. If you don’t live it, you don’t have it.” Although his new album Ride isn’t the classic blues of Big Bill, Muddy or B.B., enduring honky tonk powerhouse Wayne “The Train” Hancock has made an album of a similar attitude, and with enough grit and hardluck narrative to validate his own unique brand of cathartic blue-collar escapism.
Produced by Wayne and his longtime producer/collaborator Lloyd Maines (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Dixie Chicks, Joe Ely), Ride further cements Wayne’s life-long calling [“All I want to do is play the Joints ‘til the day I die”] as a modern-day traditionalist through his signature mélange of roadhouse blues, hepcat boogie, rockabilly, and juke joint swing. As Hank III once said, “Wayne Hancock has more Hank Sr. in him than either I or Hank Williams Jr. He is the real deal.”
Ride is built on a vibe that is at once more direct and personal than those of his previous Bloodshot releases Viper of Melody (2009), Tulsa (2006), Swing Time (2003), and A-Town Blues (2001). “The album is an organic reaction to life’s challenges … these are not sad songs,” the South TX native said of his 8th overall album and 5th for Bloodshot.
Over the course of eleven tunes, the elements of lived-in country blues are deeply felt, whether they’re found in the 12-bar boogie-woogie feel of “Low Down Blues,” courtesy of his stable of guitarists (Bob Stafford, Eddie Biebel and Tjarko Jeen), or in “Best To Be Alone,” with its winding melody and forlorn pedal steel swoons from Eddie Rivers that recall the ghostly sounds of Hank’s guy Don Helms. Further pushing the kinetic energy is “Home With My Baby,” in which newly realized love is pronounced with the bandstand-thumping upright bass bounce of Zack Sapunor and Wayne’s acoustic guitar shimmy that makes moving your hips damn near irresistible.
Throughout Ride a theme develops wherein soul searching transforms into letting go; where the back-porch, rockingchair contemplation seamlessly melds with the atmospheres of the lively, carefree honky tonk or just the open road that leads there. On the title track—as on the whole album— Wayne revs his engines and lets the healing transformation take him to life’s next destination: “I’m gonna get out on some interstate and throttle down to 94/ Lord I’m gonna ride/ Yeah, I’m gonna ride ride ride.”