WASHINGTON POST REVIEW OF PASSIONS BILLY HANCOCK 'Passions' Turkey Mountain Friday, September 9, 2005; Page WE06 Not for nothing is Billy Hancock's latest studio session titled 'Passions.' It's all about his favorite things, after all, the stuff that moves him. So in addition to finding the rockabilly laureate boppin' the blues in customary fashion with the Tennessee Rockets, we hear him applying his ground-shaking vibrato to a hand-picked hit list, featuring a vintage chart topper by Dion and the Belmonts ('No One Knows'), a classic slice of '60s soul from Billy Vera and Judy Clay ('Storybook Children,' featuring duet partner Mary Shaver), a 1980 country hit for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton ('Making Plans'), a Buffy Sainte-Marie folk anthem ('The Universal Soldier'), even a traditional Irish ode accented by a bouzouki ('Coast of Malabar'). And that's just the short list. As always, Hancock approaches everything he sings in a highly personalized fashion, making comparisons moot. He phrases lyrics in strange, idiosyncratic ways at times and can leave listeners wondering if his vocal cords are capable of producing an echo. But he never sounds insincere or preoccupied with his influences. Punctuating the cover tunes are some original songs, most notably 'Frankie,' a Lower Manhattan true-life saga with a Jersey shore vibe. Local tunesmiths Sue Settle and Ken Giese are also represented, and guitarist Dave Chappell, who's responsible for lots of twang-charged fun here, serves up 'Crab Cakes,' a fitting instrumental homage to the late guitar great Danny Gatton. Showcased, too, is a seasoned cast of Washington-based musicians, including keyboardist John Cocuzzi and saxophonists Joe Stanley and Bruce Swaim. -- Mike Joyce © 2005 The Washington Post Company ROCKVILLE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF PASSIONS Rockville International Is one of the earliest European Rock & Roll magazines, published in The Netherlands. Ever since this CD dropped in my mailbox I have been unable to keep it out of my CD player for more than a day. Playing it the first time I quickly picked out a couple of favorites like 'My Baby Walked Off', originally recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1952 at Sun in Memphis, Tennessee, and 'Making Plans', originally recorded by The Wilburn Brothers. Both songs are transformed into raucous rockabilly sides turning the original rockabilly trick, a major force Billy Hancock's original 1981 LP 'Shakin' That Rockabilly Fever', one more time. During a second and third listening other songs began to grow on me and after listening a couple of more times 'Passions' found an almost permanent place in my CD player. The passions referred to in the CDs title have to be the wide variety of musical styles included on this CD. Besides the excellent rockabilly tracks already mentioned Billy turns to soul, an anti war song and some excellent ballads in both fifties and modern Springsteen style. The self-written 'Chattanooga Tennessee' and 'King of Fools' borrow from the fifties rockabilly style but have a stronger Rock & Roll feel. 'No One Knows', a hit for Dion & The Belmonts in 1958, finds Billy in a great voice against a very simple backing featuring some beautiful slide guitar by Dave Chappell. From that same era comes 'Cryin', Waitin', Hopin'', originally the B-side of Buddy Holly's 'Peggy Sue Got Married'. Further exploring his vocal abilities Billy, with the help of Maryland blues diva Mary Shaver, turns the 1967 soul classic 'Storybook Children' into an emotional piece of music Then he goes back even further with a haunting version of 'The Coast of Malabar', a traditional love ballad, set several hundred years ago during the Irish wool/Indian tea trade. Even more daring is his approach to 'Universal Soldier' the anti war anthem written by Buffy Ste. Marie and turned into a sizeable European hit by Donovan in 1965. The folksiness of the original is replaced with a modern, more John Mellencamp, type of Rock & Roll interpreting the message clearly for 2005 listeners. The instrumental 'Crab Cakes' written by guitarist Dave Chappell and featuring Billy on electric 5 string bass is a tribute to the legendary guitarist Danny Gatton, who in the mid-seventies had a band called Danny & The Fat Boys, in which Billy Hancock was the singer and the bass player. And then there is 'Frankie', a modern tearjerker, written by Billy and based on an actual 1980's incident in New York City. This is one of those ballads that grow on you the more you play them. The backing is simple and beautiful with piano, accordion and a heartfelt guitar break but the hook to the song is the chorus that keeps the listener, you guessed it, hooked. The end comes with a long smooth sax solo over the piano, accordion backing. Billy Hancock, the musicians, engineers and producer who created this piece of American Roots Rock can be proud. One has to have the right 'Passions' for music to pull a CD with this wide a variety of musical styles together and make it work. It is by far the best American Roots CD I have heard this year and deserves at least a Grammy Nomination. Webmaster: Adriaan Sturm Zeeuw@aol.com © copyright 2005 Rockville-International.
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