If he's among the most underappreciated singer/songwriter in America, it's Butch Hancock's own fault. Never taking his own recordings very seriously; for years he's simply taped live performances or similarly lo-fi, impromptu events in a studio and then released them on his own poorly distributed label. This is the first Hancock album to be thoughtfully conceived, carefully recorded with a rehearsed band and efficiently distributed, and the results throw the best possible light on Hancock's raucous sense of humor and his passionate embrace of the world's most far-fetched possibilities.
--Eats Away the Night was produced by Gurf Morlix, who brought a similarly understated folk-rock to Lucinda Williams' albums, with musicians drawn from Williams' current band and Joe Ely's old group. The producer and players add rhythmic muscle and harmonic flesh to Hancock's songs without ever getting in the way of the words, which are the main attraction. Sometimes Hancock is slyly witty, as when he complains of a woman whose "paid vacations always fell on April Fools"; at other times, he finds the words for shapeless fears, as when he warns that "time never does make things right or wrong; it just eats away the night." Four of his older songs ("If You Were a Bluebird," "Boxcars," "One Kiss" and "Baby Be Mine") finally receive worthy arrangements, and the seven new songs include such winners as the title tune, the Dylanesque blues "Junkyard in the Sun" and the live-and-let-live anthem, "To Each His Own." --Geoffrey Himes