In the liner notes to his brand-new third album, Wild, Free & Reckless (Ark 21), Austin country hero Wayne Hancock writes, "I am loyal to this music and I will continue to play it till the day I die. If the masses want the industry they can have it. I'm not here for them or their money." True to his words, he doesn't try anything new, but he's never sounded better. Yawping like Hank Williams, he still relies on a killer slap bassist to drive his tunes rhythmically--drummer Lisa Pankratz plays on only two of the album's fifteen cuts--and subject-wise he sticks to what he knows, like driving or his girlfriend's baking skills. Most of the tunes are stripped-down rock 'n' rollers or hard-swinging honky-tonk ditties, embroidered with the occasional boogie-woogie pattern, but on the lovely ballad "That's Why I Ride" he reveals a lyrical side worthy of Tin Pan Alley, contorting his usual croak into a passable warble. The album was recorded in just two days, giving it a joyous immediacy: Hancock's constantly calling out his band members' names in encouragement as they solo, and with the chops of guitarist Dave Biller and steel guitarist Jeremy Wakefield--a more swinging version of Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West--behind him, it's easy to see why he's so enthusiastic. Unfortunately most of the musicians on the record aren't touring with him, but whenever I've seen him in the past he's rocked the place regardless of who was sharing the stage. Sunday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Dietz.