Wayne "The Train" Hancock

Of the artists on Chicago-based "insurgent country" label Bloodshot Records—an indie that has nurtured modern Americana faves such as Ryan Adams, Neko Case and Split Lip Rayfield—veteran road dog Wayne "the Train" Hancock is probably the truest to the mythos of classic country music. While he's got the middle-finger-toward-Nashville attitude of '70s outlaws Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, Hancock is dead-set on preserving the hard-living whine of Hank Williams and the ecstatic bounce of Bob Wills' Western swing.

Hancock calls his retro brew "juke-joint swing," and through the stellar musicianship of his band and an unabashed love for his craft, he gets his wish, with crowded, happy dance floors. If you're disgruntled because the alt-country genre seems all but bloated with brooding, floor-staring croakers, you'll get giddy on the Train's populist pick-me-ups; he sings just seconds into his fine new record, Viper of Melody: "I want to jump the blues and make the hard times swing."

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Elliott Johnston