Wayne Hancock’s debut, Thunderstorms And Neon Signs, was one of those records I wanted to like more than I actually did. It featured a bunch of good songs, and it effectively reached back into the ’50s and conjured up a true honky-tonk sound. But the whole affair seemed a little forced, Hancock trying just a little too hard to be authentic. As a result, it just wasn’t as much fun as it should have been.
But Hancock’s first record for the new Ark 21 label, That’s What Daddy Wants, quickly finds the relaxed groove that had been missing last time around. The music starts jumping and swinging with the title track; the record feels different right away as a drummer kicks off the proceedings, followed by a horn section. With this expanded instrumentation as well as backing vocals, the song is a rousing honky-tonk stomp, some real juke-joint jumping music. The next song, “87 Southbound”, is a cheatin’ tune delivered with a winning combination of accordion and Tex-Mex rhythms.
It’s not that Hancock is going for a different sound; it’s still hard-core honky-tonk, and it’s still built on the foundation of fine playing on guitar, steel and stand-up bass. And it’s not that the songs on That’s What Daddy Wants are vastly improved; both albums feature fine material delivered with Hancock’s signature Hank Williams-channeling whine. It’s just that the new record feels better — more natural, more infectious in its energy, more fun.
Both records finish with surprising and successful covers. But where Thunderstorms And Neon Signs closes with a sultry version of the Gershwins’ “Summertime”, the new record finishes up with a honky-tonk take on “Brand New Cadillac”, the old Vince Taylor tune reprised by the Clash on London Calling.
The advance copy of That’s What Daddy Wants includes an message from Wayne Hancock which, I think, gets to the heart of the matter: “This album was recorded and finished in three days and it cost very little to make. Let’s see all you industry cats beat that one. Sincerely, Wayne Hancock.”