This is the seventh time around for the slightly warped but always honest and driven Wayne Hancock. Viper of Melody, his fourth release for Bloodshot, finds Hancock in comfortable territory, cranking out one solid gem after another, each a hot blend of country, western swing and rockabilly. This time, though, his jaunty takes on the hard life take on new meaning. Songs like “Workin at Workin’” and “Throwin’ Away My Money” do not sound like poor-folk relics from the past amped up and spry to give hope. Today, people are singing these songs for real again, and Hancock is a perfect reporter.
Hancock delivers his sometimes dark, sad tales with an exuberance that makes it seem as if everything is going to be all right. He has that power, like a Bob Wills or Ernest Tubb, to look tough truths straight in the eye, and then spit in it.
As usual, Hancock is backed by a super band and by longtime producer Lloyd Maines. They help Viper of Melody walk a musical line between the present and historic, while Hancock sings of universal moments of struggle. In that way, this might be his most important release in a career than has never shown one slip into the irrelevant or inauthentic.