Because the world of country swing and rockabilly is overrun with singers offering more tired cliches about fast lovin' and hard drinkin', it's worth noting that one of Wayne "The Train" Hancock's best songs, "Double A Daddy," celebrates the designated driver: "We're going out drinking/ Gonna go driving around/ I'm gonna do the driving/ So you won't have to go downtown," he sings in a take-it-or-leave-it nasal twang. Still, Hancock is rooted deeply in history: The covers of his two albums, That's What Daddy Wants and Thunderstorms and Neon Signs, are sepia-toned '50s-styled snapshots, and he borrows musical ideas from Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Elvis Presley, the Blasters, and George Gershwin. With no drinking habit to speak of, love is his only lyrical option to focus his anxieties on, which he does with equal parts energy and wit. On "87 Southbound" his voice is so thick with spite and disgust that the words drool out: "I caught you with him on them damp ... slick ... sticky satin sheets." Be it country, blues, or rockabilly, Hancock's backup band is smart enough to keep the gratuitous guitar flash to a minimum. With a well-placed yodel or a familiar shambling beat behind him, he honors history; with a well-turned line that's wholly his own, he adds to it.
-- Mark Athitakis
Wayne Hancock plays Saturday, July 11, at 9 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom). Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Valley Boys and the Kuntry Kunts open. Tickets are $8; call 522-0333.