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Vital preservation

That's What Daddy Wants
Wayne Hancock
Ark 21 Records

In the Spirit of the Sharecroppers
Good Medicine Band
Captive Audience Records

Given the rate at which pop culture chews through things, it's hard to argue with the concept of preservation, even if it does conjure up images of Granny's root cellar: the fruits of progress packed in their own juices with their pale skins pressed against the glass of a Mason jar, suspended forever in time.

With two recent releases from Austin artists, however, that retro urge can still be found as tasty and full of promise as a ripe fig dangling from a branch. Wayne Hancock's second album, That's What Daddy Wants--released on Miles Copeland's Ark 21 Records (dedicated to artists who may not fit all that well into pre-existing marketing niches)--is as reminiscent of the past as a '47 Packard, but more vital than all the dreck in NashVegas. Jump blues, roadhouse rave-ups, and steel guitars not that far removed from their Hawaiian antecedents are all part of Hancock's formula, but Hancock is no dogmatist. He used no drums at all on his first album and in the past has avoided them live, but here he employs a trap set on three cuts. His mission on Daddy seems to be to prove how many flavors and styles can coexist: norteno ("87 Southbound"), searing Chuck Berry-esque rockers ("Johnny Law"), his long-established love of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers ("Freight Law Blues"), and T-Bone-style blues (check out the guitar line behind "Johnson City"). The most powerful cut on the album, however, is "Brand New Cadillac," which is driven by a rockabilly guitar part that manages to segue smoothly between jackhammer urgency and flopping about with a spastic pain that mirrors Hancock's anguished, screaming vocal. Also commendable is his use of horns--not only on "Cadillac," but also the "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"-style blast that opens the disc's first and title cut.

Whereas many country acts use mandolin, fiddle, Dobro, and banjo to add a bit of texture to their music, for the Good Medicine Band (formerly the Sharecroppers) those instruments come together on In the Spirit of the Sharecroppers to form the core around which the more typical electric guitar and drums cluster, giving their well-written songs an undeniably rustic caste and dignity. Even more important is that this band sports three accomplished and distinctive vocalists, giving them a range of sound that most groups can only dream of. Whether they're bemoaning the death of the neighborhood store or spinning an O. Henry-style cowboy ballad, these guys attain a cohesiveness that makes their music well-nigh irresistible. The Sharecroppers are dead; long live the Good Medicine Band.

--Matt Weitz

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Matt Weitz

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