Hank, Dash and Promises Promises sessions


Promises Promises cover 248

1. Way of the World
2. Oil (Black Gold)
3: Jump in the River
4: My Love is Gone
5. Simple Pleasures
6. Fingers
7. Slippin' Whisky
8. Let Her Go
9. Image of Me
10. Something in the Air 
11. Promises Promises

Lead Vocals
Gretsch 1963 Double Anniversary guitar
Mele baritone ukulele

Harmony Vocals
Ukulele Bass
Asher Lap Steel

Proposed images for Hank's new album

All songs by Hank Wangford, BMG Music Publishing except: Image of Me - Wayne Kemp, Sony/ATV Publishing. Simple Pleasures - Hank Wangford / Reg Meuross, BMG Music Publishing
Recorded by Tom Moore at Yaxham Studios
Mixed and mastered by Mikey Shaw at
Dub Cavern Studios
Produced by Hank Wangford and
Noel Dashwood
Cover photography by Pete Smith
Design by Owchi Design




Reviews page

HANK'S LATEST CD (also available on vinyl)



October 2023

$incere $ounds October 2023

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This duet album by British country music treasure Hank Wangford and Dobro maestro Noel Dashwood is music from a different world, guided by rules and sensibilities that have started to fade from our range of vision. It’s a record that time and fashion cannot touch. The recordings feature little more than Hank’s honeyed voice and Noel’s bluesy guitar. But that simplicity, and vulnerability, makes them special. In each case, even the sparest settings are fueled with the pair’s innate, yet casual exuberance, basking in the pure joy that comes with making music from a decidedly traditional template. Countrified talking blues, oddball country-folk, delicate romantic odes, and black humour, with some erudite philosophy about life, are all tossed into the pot. Hank’s low and slow vocal approach to these tunes, and Noel’s evocative guitar arrangements, serves them well. Most importantly, Hank has strong songwriting skills, and coupled with the simple, accessible production of just his lead vocal, rhythm electric guitar and ukulele and Noel’s vocal harmonies, bass, Dobro, harmonica, and Asher lap steel, it makes for a genuine duo album. 

Stylish and chock-full of charms, and brimming with hope, the album practices what it preaches, showcasing the power of slowing down and honing-in on life’s tiny, beautiful details. Hank and Noel instill ambiance and atmosphere in each of these ten originals and one cover, while still allowing the arrangements to remain both sturdy and spare. In these songs, lovers appear like apparitions under shining moons, moments are fleeting, the drinks are cold and stiff, and beauty gives way to darkness lurking underneath. But all the while, ol’ Hank keeps his chin up and looks to the horizon.

Noel Dashwood is one of the most toneful and tasteful Dobro players to emerge in recent years. His mastery of expression through his instrument is on full display on the lighthearted Fingers, a toe-tapper with Hank’s words of wisdom literally thrown away as Noel enjoys the fun with his distinctive picking. From a musical standpoint, the instrumentation on Something In The Air is gorgeously simple, intuitive and warm Loose and languorous, a little like the pair themselves, the track ripples like a gentle breeze through a pastel-hued orchard on a long summer’s evening. My Love Is Gone is a song that captures the feeling of regret in an astute manner. At times it taps into the beauty of caring enough to be hurt by loss, but it also feels like a quiet celebration of resilience in the face of that loss. Simple Pleasures is a composition that displays a sense of contentment, love and, carefreeness wonderfully, despite hard times. Noel excels with his Dobro instrumental break, while his lap steel work at the close reminds me of those early Marty Robbins’ tear-jerkers.

The invigorating Black Gold spotlights Hank’s signature fusion of the personal and political with clever and astute lyricism. Noel’s clarity of tone is on full display, clean picking with no dirt fuzzing it up despite its muddy roots. A melancholy, evocative cover of Conway Twitty’s early country hit, The Image Of Me, is spare and languid, stripping the song back to expose Hank’s plaintive vocal as Noel’s lap steel chimes in sympathy. While a tasteful nod to Twitty’s original is evident in this lovingly crafted rendition of the iconic song, Hank has made it very much his own, too. Both Hank and Noel possess a laid-back elegance, and their voices pair together perfectly … miss out on his new album at your peril!

Alan Cackett - October 2023


An unlikely combination perhaps of the alt-country veteran Hank Wangford and Noel Dashwood (of Alden Patterson Dashwood), who is more associated with the folk scene, but they’ve been working as a guitar and dobro duo for a couple of years. Promises Promises comes from their second attempt at making an album, the first being scuppered by social distancing and Noel’s Covid chest. With Wangford on lead, guitar and uke and Dashwood on harmonies, bass, dobro, harmonica and lap steel, it’s a generally relaxed affair that, divided between toe-tappers and heartbreakers, takes a gentle cruise through swing, a touch of jazz, old time honky tonk and Hawaiian country. All but two are Wangford solo originals, opening up with the Tiki-lounge sway of The Way Of The World, the breezy tune offsetting a jaundiced lyric musing about how life regularly pulls the carpet from under you and the joys of getting older with aching bones, though love might carry you through.

Riding a Johnny Cash scuffling rhythm, dobro a go go, Oil (Black Gold) is a jaunty number about weaning ourselves off our reliance on oil – and as such, our being held to ransom by its suppliers –  in a world that’s “just oyster with a gearbox for a heart”, namechecking oil extortionists Putin and the Sheik of Abu Dhabi as it bounces along. Written while feeling pissed off with lockdown, Jump In A River is rather less about going for a swim and more about how psychedelics aren’t just for when you’re young and are great at helping deal with addiction and fears of death. Given that Wangford used to be a doctor in his civilian life as Sam Hutt (clients included The Who, Grateful Dead and the Stones, all of whom would have been well-versed in such), I’ll take his word for it.

He breaks out the ukulele for the slower, jazzier Tin Pan Alley era swing My Love Is Gone, which, as you might surmise, is about loss, here that of those first flushes of innocence when reality kicks in. Originally featured on Wangford’s 1977 album Wake Up Dead, a co-write with Reg Meuross, Simple Pleasures, about longing for a life without its complications (“you want it tender but it turns out tough”), still has that mountain music front porch gospel lightness to its step and sway. The first half finishes up in a lyrically playful style with the redneck yee haw rhythm and philosophy of  Fingers where, punctuated by a dobro breakdown, he declares, “the only thing I count on is my fingers/The only thing I bet on is my ass”.

It’s over then to the tears and beers honky tonk for the second serving, the first pouring of which harks back to his 1980 debut with Slippin’ Whisky,  a time back when he’d been working with immigrant and indigenous patients in Saskatchewan, a song about lost love getting drunk and waiting for a train to leave the heartaches behind. Trying to find a way to tell someone your relationship’s reached the end of the line underpins the ghostly lap steel weeping slow waltzer Let Her Go, reaming in a tear-stained territory for a terrific faithful cover of Conway Twitty’s 1968 hit Image Of Me to which he was introduced during his friendship with Gram Parsons.

Returning to his own work, the penultimate Something In The Air is more in the mode of dreamy old school Nashville with a lingering legacy of hippie beliefs that “love can be the golden rule”, Noel offering another simple but lovely dobro solo before the infectious waltzing swayalong title rack winds it up with another cynical number about how declarations of love are just a  precursor for the subsequent lies and broken vows, fading away just as the track itself does. With the sleeve note annotations to the songs as well as a potted history of the dobro in country music, this an absolute delight and if there was a UK version of the Country Hall Of Fame, a perfect reason why both of them should be inducted.

Mike Davies - 4 December, 2023


Foot Tappers and Heartbreakers from the grizzled godfather of UK alt-country and dobro wizard partner.

Well – here’s an album that been a lo o o ong time in the making.  Hank Wangford – unreformed hippie and “grizzled godfather of UK alt-country” and Noel Dashwood – dobro player extraordinaire and sometime partner to Norfolk chums Christina Alden and Alex Patterson (a pair that seem to be everywhere just right now…) first pooled their considerable resources just around the time that Mr Covid was thinking about embarking on his world tour.  Their gigs had been well-received and they’d agreed that an album was a great idea – they had the material and they’d booked the studio; the only trouble was, Covid got very literally in the way.

A first effort at laying down the tracks that would become Promises Promises was blighted by the virus, to the extent that, in the words of both Hank and Noel, it was impossible to “fashion a whiff of silk purse out of the sad sow’s ear.”  But, no matter.  By January 2023, Covid was, if not a distant memory, sufficiently in retreat to allow the pair to have another go – and, second time around, they cracked it.  And, as I’m so pleased to confirm, all the effort and frustration has been worth it – Promises Promises is a delightful album; a wonderfully laid-back collection of charming, gentle – yet often poignant – songs that are illuminated ever-so-brightly by some of the best dobro playing that you’re ever likely to hear.

With two exceptions, the songs on Promises Promises are all Hank’s.  Promises Promises is an album of two distinct moods and the tracks are classified, respectively, as Toetappers (side one) and Heartbreakers (side two) – and this is an album that won’t be troubling those responsible for enforcing the Trades Descriptions act.  Toetappers and Heartbreakers are what we’re promised, and Toetappers and Heartbreakers are what we get.

Promises Promises is an uncomplicated album; it’s recorded ‘live’ in the studio, without overdubs or unnecessary embellishment.  Hank plays his prized Gretsch 1963 Double Anniversary electric guitar and his Mele baritone ukulele, as well as providing the lead vocals.  Noel adds some smashing harmony vocals, ukulele bass and harmonica, but the things that turn Promises Promises into an album that’s really special are his contributions on his Asher lap steel and, particularly, his dobro.

And it’s that smooth, twangy dobro that provides the tasty intro to the ragtime Way of the World, the album’s opening track – a stoic, lighthearted view of the way our lives get shaped for us.  Hank sounds a quarter of his age as he sings lyrics like: “Sea is smooth when we set sail, so why do always end up in the belly of the whale?”  It’s humourous, it’s fun, and it’s absolutely enjoyable.  And Hank continues on a lighthearted note for Oil (Black Gold), even though the subject matter this time is a tad more serious.  To a pleasant country tune, Hank makes no bones about the inadvisability and unviability of continuing to burn fossil fuels and makes the valid point that, the sooner we convert to cleaner alternatives, the sooner the likes of Putin will be left high and dry.

Noel’s dobro is simply magnificent on Jump in a River, another gentle country-flavoured number.  The lyrics are, ostensibly, about the frustrations that we all suffered during lockdown, but they soon venture into more adventurous territory as Hank considers dropping a tab of Orange Sunshine to escape the constraints of lockdown and relishes his psychedelic freedom, singing: “I think I’m gonna jump out of an aeroplane, dive down through the sky, see how I feel about freefall – might as well give it a try!”

Things return to earth somewhat for My Love is Gone, a song that Hank describes as “A sad little ukulele-written song of loss of innocent love.”  It’s tuneful, pleasant – impossible, in fact, to dislike, before Hank and Noel demonstrate the appropriateness of their ‘toetappers’ description with Simple Pleasures.  One of two songs on the album that are not Hank Wangford solo compositions – he worked this one into shape with the help of Reg Meuross – it chugs along nicely to a choppy acoustic guitar rhythm as you realise that tapping your foot isn’t an option – it’s an order!

And Fingers, the last of the album’s Toetappers, Is another jolly country frolic.  Inspired by what Hank terms as Redneck philosophy, the lyrics are wonderful, and lines like: “The only thing I count on is my fingers, the only thing I bet on is my ass – The only thing that’s certain, when they drop the curtain, is I’ll head off to the sunset when they put me out to grass,” display an enviable acceptance of what lies in wait for all of us.

And so, on to the Heartbreakers, the weepies with which no album in the Country idiom can be without.  Slippin’ Whisky is the oldest of Hank’s songs included here, written back in the seventies when Hank was plying his trade as doctor in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairies.  It’s a thoughtful ballad that I can easily imagine being sung by Gram Parsons.  A sad song of parting, Noel’s weepy dobro solo is divine and I love his sound effects as Hank drowns his sorrows with lines like: “Here I go again, slippin’ whisky in my beer, for it ain’t no use just hangin’ ‘round here.”

Let Her Go, a song “…about lies and our inability to tell a lover it’s over” is another atmospheric weepie.  It’s perfectly crafted, with well-considered lyrics, and a prelude to the album’s only wholly non-original song.  Listeners will probably be most familiar with the Conway Twitty song, Image of Me from the majestic version, sung by Gram Parsons, on the Burritos’ Burrito Deluxe album.  There might be a slightly incongruous shred of contentment in Hank’s voice as he sings the song’s sad lyrics – he certainly doesn’t leave us on the verge of tears, like Gram did – but this is, nevertheless, a splendidly respectful version of a great song and, once again, Noel twangs the heartstrings with yet another scorching dobro solo.

“Call me a dreamer, or just an old fool,” Hank sings in the chorus to the wonderful Something in the Air, before going on to add “…if I still believe that love can be the Golden Rule.”  Tongue-in-cheek, he muses in the album’s sleevenotes whether such sentiments are a heavenly vision or, maybe, just hippie shit.  I prefer to believe that they’re the wise words of a wise old man – and, in any case – what’s WRONG with hippy shit??

And, to bring this fine album to its contented, mellow close, Hank has chosen a Country waltz – essential, as he firmly believes, in any collection of Country Heartbreakers.  Promises Promises, the album’s title track, is a gem that made me consider the strong similarity between many characters in country ballads and most politicians – it seems that both are obsessively keen to make promises, whilst neither have any intention of keeping them.  And Hank has that tendency summarized to a ‘tee’ as he says: “You can make ‘em, you can break ‘em – better take ‘em with a big pinch of salt; when a promise gets broken, you can say that it’s never your fault.”

Just a couple of points to close with, then: firstly – Promises Promises is a fantastic album and highly recommended; secondly – the picture on the CD is of a Cornish pasty, with Hank’s name baked into the pastry.  I love it.  And, finally – a Hank Wangford update: at the age of 83, Hank (or Dr. Sam Hutt, as, I suppose we should call him at this point) has finally retired from medical practice – but he’s still keeping up his involvement in his Womens’ Contraception Clinic in Transylvania, Romania.  There’s no keeping a good man down and, happily, there’s no sign yet of him walking away from his music.

John Barlass - 1 December 2023