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Dec 8, 2011
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Hancock lives the honky tonk blues that he moans so well
Wayne Hancock plays the Gas Lamp on Sunday, Dec. 11 at 9 p.m. Jake Orvis & the Broken Band open. Tickets are $12 at Midwestix.

By Michael Swanger

Wayne “The Train” Hancock personifies the old adage that you have to live the honky tonk blues to sing them so convincingly.

Oh, brother, can The Train sing ’em.

Since the release of his critically acclaimed 1995 debut album, “Thunderstorms and Neon Signs,” the 46-year-old Texas troubadour has been ignored by commercial radio and the Nashville Machine (screw ’em anyway); eked out a living playing a never-ending series of one-nighters in juke joints along the lost highway; been busted by Johnny Law in just about any town you can name for twisting one up with friends; separated from his wife; and spent some time in rehab (sort of). All of which, he wears like a badge of honor, or courage.

Yet to his admirers, those who defiantly wave their middle finger at unauthentic music, Hancock is the undisputed “King of Juke Joint Swing.” His sound is akin to a mix of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Bob Wills, but it is his own and is uncompromising in its pure artistry.

Refreshingly honest, onstage or off, I caught up with The Train last week. Here’s what he had to say.

CV: Bloodshot Records issued a statement that you entered rehab. How did that go?

WH: I was supposed to go to rehab, but they had a big ol’ waiting list. I was overworked and needed a break, so I took three months off, got my head straight and laid off drinking and smoking reefer. Then I joined a motorcycle club in Texas, which was better than going to rehab because when you prospect for a motorcycle club you can’t drink or smoke. That pretty much whipped that, man. I’m almost 50, and I got tired of going to jail all the fuckin’ time for it.

CV: When was the last time you got busted?

WH: Earlier this year in Illinois. I hadn’t smoked it, but I had it on me. I told the guys at the jail when I was leaving who I was, so they looked up my music and liked it so much that they just dropped the fuckin’ charges.

CV: What’s the name of the your club?

WH: The Darkhorse Motorcycle Club. We’re not one-percenters. We ride under the Bandidos, but we’re not into bad things. I wanted to do something because when I’m at home I just stand around with my hands in my pockets. I’ve been with them about six months and been a patch holder for about two months.

CV: Any plans to record a new album?

WH: I hope to get back in the studio next spring. I started writing songs about riding motorcycles, I thought that’d be a cool, different approach. I got a new song called “Ride.” Me and my wife of three years, we split up. It was in the cards. I don’t think I’m supposed to be married. Doing this is hard on a relationship because I’m gone all the time. Neither one of us wants a divorce, we just can’t stand to live together.

CV: How would you describe your fans?

WH: The ones that listen to us mainly is the rock and rolls. They tell me they love my music, but hate country music. I say, ‘I’m with you. I hate country music, too.’ There’s a prejudice in Nashville against independent artists and that people on major labels are better than everybody else. You know, brother, that just drove me away from it.

CV: On your last album, “Viper of Melody,” you wrote a poignant song called “Working at Working.” How has the recession affected you?

WH: The shit’s getting pretty tough. Out on the road you used to be able to get a decent meal at Denny’s for $5.50. Now it’s $10. Everything’s doubled out here. We might not be able to afford our own jet plane working on the lower end of things, but it’s guaranteed work playing the clubs. That’s golden. That’s really all I want. That’s why I’ll work for another 25 to 30 years. Play ’til you die. CV

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