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The Train, No Bandwagon : Original Engineers Lead Wayne Hancock to His Own Country

July 17, 1996|JOHN ROOS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Traditional country singer Wayne "The Train" Hancock and rockabilly trio Russell Scott and the Red Hots offered some gritty slices of life Monday night at Linda's Doll Hut.

In his earnest, thoroughly enjoyable two-hour set, Hancock, a 30-year-old based in Austin, Texas, used his love and knowledge of traditional hard-core country to transport us to a bygone era.

Long before the country-rock cliches of Blackhawk and the theatrics of Garth Brooks were in vogue, such down-to-earth storytellers as Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Tubb sang simple but heartfelt songs about dusty, endless highways laced with busted dreams and broken hearts.

True to that form, Hancock sang and yodeled (!) with an ache in his voice and what sounded like a longing in his heart. His distinctive, nasally, emotional voice is richly textured, vibrant and totally convincing. Its lack of polish only enhanced the grain and grit that perfectly suited his often raw material.

Alternating between Hawaiian lap steel and electric guitar, Chris Miller added an array of colorful, fluid notes while upright bassist Preston Rumbaugh slapped out thumping yet supple lines with notable proficiency.

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Hancock's numerous covers included songs by the likes of Mel Tillis and Gino Quinn along with the expected Hank and Jimmie tunes. But Hancock does more than just replicate country's essence of yesteryear.

He uses his influences from the past as a springboard for his own emerging sound and style. His own songs may center around the same juke joints and honky-tonks, the same boozin', lyin' and cheatin' as the classics do. Yet his best work (as captured on his excellent debut, "Thunderstorms and Neon Signs") reveals a maturity and sophistication that bring subtle twists to these age-old tales.

Yeah, tilt it back momma till the last drops are gone.

When your daddy's at the wheel,

Ain't nothing ever gonna go wrong.

Although "lonesome" and "blue" won hands down as the words sung most often Monday night, the biggest crowd pleasers were two up-tempo, bouncy selections. "Juke Joint Jumping" and the catchy "She's My Baby," played back-to-back, had the fans dancing, clapping and singing along.

Los Angeles' Scott and the Red Hots--still buzzing over having shared the stage with Jerry Lee Lewis on Saturday night at the House of Blues in Hollywood--played an inspired, sweat-inducing hourlong opening set, mixing pop standards with such promising originals as the uplifting "Let's Fall in Love."

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The group's biggest asset is the voice of bassist Scott, who croons ballads and shouts rockers with a distinctive flair. Newest member Gene E. Jaramillo (who joined two weeks ago) added sharp, crisp guitar leads and contributed occasional lead vocals, and drummer Philippe Aubuchon's stick work was solid. This is one tightknit threesome, with a future that should only get brighter.

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