daButch Hancock: War and Peace

Hancock's latest album is a diatribe against Bush and the war. Unlike the Texas troubadour's previous efforts, this disc offers no tales of Southwestern romance, desert waltzes, or small town vignettes.

Butch Hancock

War and Peace

Label: Two Roads Records
US Release Date: 2006-10-17
UK Release Date: Available as import

It's been nine years since the once prolific Texas singer songwriter Butch Hancock recorded a solo album, and it seems it took a Lone Star burr in his butt to get him jump started. That pain in the ass was President George Bush. Hancock's latest album is a diatribe against Bush and the war. Unlike the Texas troubadour's previous efforts, this disc offers no tales of Southwestern romance, desert waltzes, or small town vignettes. War and Peace essentially functions as a political weapon.

The record operates in the vein of those by topical folk rockers of the past whose songs came right from the headlines. While many of the song titles may seem reminiscent of Neil Young (i.e., "Damage Done," "Old Man, Old Man," who himself has recently issued an album-length screed about the same topic, Living with War), the sound of the music more closely resembles that of Bob Dylan. Much of this is due to the fact the two men share the same tweedy vocal timbre -- think Dylan circa 1969 rather than the low-frog vocal range he currently possesses. Hancock twists the way he expresses the words in the same way the Great White Wonder did back in the day, so when the Texan squeals lines like "How many soldiers sent to go and going not come back," "Come all ye mad and ragin' fearless friends of war and peace," or "Living on forever's edges etched on tombstones of the dead," both the sound and the lyrics recall Dylan.

While this gives the album a traditional feel, Hancock directly criticizes the present evil in the White House. He equates Bush with Satan on the bitter "The Devil in Us All" and "Cast the Devils Out". Hancock explicitly states the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are about oil ("They never found a single weapon of mass destruction / But they all smell oil got to get it in production"), mentions Saddam and the World Trade Center attack by name, and offers other specific details about modern times. The roots of the Bush administration's contemporary sins can be found in an old fashioned problem. "Money, money, money, money, money, money, money," Hancock warns on the Gospel style, "When the Good and the Bad Get Ugly". He uses Biblical style references on almost every song to make his moralizing points.

Musically, Hancock delivers the goods almost completely by himself. He credits himself for lead vocals, harmonies, harmonica, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass, drums, djemba, percussion, keyboards, banjo, and as producer. He mentions that Rob Gjersoe plays some electric guitar, but it's not clear on what tracks, and that fellow Flatlanders Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore join on harmony vocals on two cuts. But unless one listens very carefully, one would never know. The others are minimally present. The disc seems to be completely a Hancock solo venture.

War and Peace probably won't please anyone who is looking for something beyond a political protest record. The songs here don't really ever transcend the genre. He's strictly preaching to the choir. That doesn't make this a bad record, but Hancock's sermonizing gets wearying to hear. While there's the pleasant shock value of listening to the Texan get right to the point, naming names and casting blame, the overall effect becomes tiresome.

That said, Hancock ends the record on a more hopeful note. Hancock croons the last song, "Great Election Day" in a cheerful voice and with an upbeat tempo He professes positive faith in democracy to change the nation's direction, although Hancock warns of the potential problems caused by those in power tabulating the votes. The album was recorded and released before November 2006, which makes Hancock's guarded optimism more credible. He hails the "Great Election Day" when "the man or woman who has a plan for peace" wins the election. That may not be exactly what happened in November, but no doubt Hancock was gladdened by the results. His warning against voting on a "man-made machine" versus a pencil and paper seems prescient too in light of the potential for fraud (or actual deceptions) that have occurred during the last two presidential campaigns. This tune should be the theme song for those currently lobbying their state legislatures and Congress for more secure balloting. This is a very active issue here in Iowa, where candidates like Rudolph Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and John McCain III have already made promotional appearances. No doubt this matter will continue to be a national concern in the future.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.