Butch Hancock's self-produced War and Peace, his first solo CD in almost 9 years, meets face to face with the mountains of lies that appear to be rising higher and higher all around us and all inside us, and reminds us: the times they are STILL a'changin'. From the riveting acapella opener, a call-for-peace/prayer/warning/urge-to-compassion to the final cut, a 7min plus get-out-the-vote anthem which would set Woody Guthrie, Willie Dixon and Mississippi John Hurt dancing proudly in their graves, Hancock pulls no metaphorical punches. His voice, still warm and scratchy after all these years, blends with the harmonies of long-time buddies (and ex-Flatlanders band mates) Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
The title comes courtesy of Leo Tolstoy. The vocals are Lone Star Bob Dylan, made grittier by an East Texas wind. And the style is Woody Guthrie by way of Robert "Masters of War" Zimmerman. That said, ex-Flatlander Hancock brings unassailable conviction to this collection of original protest songs, which draw on Biblical references, activist literature, and Phil Ochs-like humanity to drive a stake through the heart of Hancock's fellow Texan in the White House. "They never found a single weapon of mass destruction," he needles in "The Devil in Us All," "but they all smell oil/got to get it into production." Hancock plays nine instruments here, and calls on old bandmates Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore for his chorus of witnesses. Still, at times, as on "Old Man, Old Man," a monologue to his maker, Hancock-as-producer needs a bit of help--his keyboards are too cheesy to rattle God's stained-glass windows, and much of this has a DIY, on-the-cheap tone. Can you really plug an electric guitar into your truck's cigarette lighter? --Alanna Nash