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Hank Wangford: Save Me The Waltz - new cd

CD 1 - The Light

1. The Light
2. I Love You So Much It Hurts Me 
3. Sunk Without Trace  
4. Permanently Lonely 
5. Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves)
6. Slow Down Old World 
7. Get Acquainted Waltz 
8. Save Me The Waltz 
9. Half A Man  
10. Concrete & Barbed Wire 
11. Say Its Not You 
12. Homeless Heart 
13. Image Of Me 
14. Sin City

CD 2 - The Dark

1. Whistling In The Dark
2. Waltzing With Sin 
3. Waltz Of The Seasons
4. Baby’s In Black 
5. Excuses
6. Sad Songs & Waltzes 
7. Anyway 
8. Lies 
9. Deportees 
10. Lonely Together 
11. End Of The Road
12. Hats Off To Roger



You can read Hank's liner notes HERE

The Songs
Floyd Tillman was right at the heart of the Texan Western Swing movement in the thirties and forties. He wrote the first Country cheating song Slipping Around. He had a lazy drawling singing style that slid over time and beats and made Willie Nelson sound as if he was a stickler for straight four square rhythm.  He wrote deceptively simple songs.  Check him on youTube and feel your jaw drop.

Willie of course continued Floyd’s tradition and wrote some of the most aching waltz ballads. Half A Man has been a favourite with us for years and Slow Down Old World and Permanently Lonely are screwing their way into our hearts. Sad Songs & Waltzes is acerbic self effacing and prophetic.

The Louvin Brothers have always been there for all of us lovers of harmony and Get Acquainted Waltz is our nod to them. The awful irony of the singing brother duets in Country is that while they dealt in heavenly harmonies, they lived in terrible disharmony and all finished their lives not talking to each other. Read Charlie Louvin’s newly published biography Satan Is Real for a full blooded taste of how life was for these good ol’ boys.
To mark the time I ran away from an unhappy home and stayed a lonely year in a cold and harsh Paris I’ve converted Autumn Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes) into a waltz (sharp eared and tight-arsed musicians might accuse me of doing it in 6/8, not 3/4 but I don’t care). This is partly because all the other French waltzes were too, well, French in a jokey sense but mostly because I got a gig playing guitar behind a singer who sang this song, Jacques Brel and other chansonnier stuff.  A lot of expat American jazzers were in Paris then so I asked Ian Smith to play his muted Miles-style trumpet here.  
Lucinda Williams is another icon and Anna does a great job with Concrete & Barbed Wire.  

The other three new recordings were done in Roy Dodds’ front room.  

The two acoustic tracks with Billy Bragg were recorded for the bonus album with Talking with the Taxman About Poetry in 1986. When we toured together we would do a couple of songs like these as the Braggford Brothers, two Big Nosed Bastards. They are both favourite songs, Sin City as my nod to Gram Parsons, the man guilty of press ganging me into Country music and Deportees as my total favourite Woody Guthrie song. 

Other re-released tracks are reminders of some of the waltzes I’ve recorded on previous albums.

The fine high tenor harmonies of Reg Meuross are here on three tracks.  As my love affair with the West of Ireland gathered apace I found myself singing with the glorious Dolores Keane and playing with Mairtin O’Connor a mesmerising accordion player whose fingers fly across the buttons like butterflies.

For Waltzing with Sin I ventured down into the Badlands of Brixton to work with the great Reverend Larry Love of the Alabama 3, this time backed by the Love/O’Connell Orchestra. We recorded in Brendan O’Connell’s loft and Jamm Studios. BJ Cole came down with his pedal steel e-Bow and distortion pedal and Wizard Greg recorded and mixed us. Dubstep and Hip Hop producers stuck their heads incredulously round the door as BJ took off screaming and wailing into the stratosphere.

“This,” I explained to them “is Country Music.” 

Hank Wangford - February 2014


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Four Stars Four Stars Four Stars Four Stars

For years the British country music scene was kept alive by the wonder-fully named - and generally wonderful - Hank Wangford. The alternative was a bunch of wannabe Nashvillians who wore the clothes but couldn’t cut the mustard when it came to the music. And that’s where Wangford scored.

The eccentric singer, songwriter (and erstwhile gynecologist) kept the faith through the magic of a stage show that lovingly spoofed the trappings of country music with a ‘$incere Products’  merchandise booth, a fiddle player who looked like Clark Gable while singing like Bing Crosby and a backing singer named Sissy Footwear, while making music that was classic ‘Hank I’ golden-era country. One of Hank W’s favourite aspects of the music he loves is the waltz. Now he’s made a whole double album of songs in that special 3/4 time signature. He’s fascinated by the waltz - when it first arrived in England it was regarded as a dangerous innovation. Why, the man and woman face each other and press their loins together. Scandalous! Hank says the waltz is the difference between rock & roll and country music. Country is full of them, and its saddest songs are of-ten in 3/4 time, but waltzes are almost non-existent in Rock. Now you can enjoy a whole double album of them. Standout track: ‘Save Me The Waltz’.


Daily Express - Weekend Music

Four Stars Four Stars Four Stars Four Stars

Now 73, Hank has long been obsessed with the 3/4 time signature that drives many a sad and doleful country song. So here he offers up 25, some self-penned, some purloined from major names like Willie Nelson, the Louvin Brothers, Lucinda Williams and even Lennon & McCartney. His compadres the Lost Cowboys are a razor-sharp band of musical desperadoes who cruise effortlessly through some miserable (in the nicest possiblele way) tracks like Half A Man, Baby’s In Black, Say It’s Not You and Permanently Lonely. Wallow in the misfortune of others.



Country Music People

Four Stars Four Stars Four Stars Four Stars

I remember with acute embarrassment my first feeble attempts at the waltz. It was at the tender age of 16 or 17, when I was dragged along to a local dance school by my girlfriend to ‘learn to dance.’ The tuition was a failure as I struggled to grasp the one-two-three steps to the Blue Danube Waltz and my poor partner ended up with badly bruised toes. Dancing is not my forte, but in the ensuing years I have ungainly smooched in semi-waltz style to such classic country tunes as Amazing Love, Help Me Make It Through The Night and Tennessee Waltz. Country music used to lend itself to waltzes, as good ol’ Hank Wangford and his buddies show with this 2-CD set of mainly waltz tunes, some penned by Hank and others selected from the annals of country music of old. As you might imagine, this is very much subdued music that kinda drifts along at a sedentary tempo.

Some of these are older recordings, whilst a handful have recently been recorded with the current Lost Cowboys line-up, but they all sit comfortably side-by-side making it nigh on impossible to differentiate between them. The CDs are sub-titled ‘The Light’ and ‘The Dark,’ though you’d be hard-pressed to notice any change in light or shade as Hank offers up dark tales of love and heartache, betrayal and death. He sets the mood with an almost whispered rendition of Floyd Tillman’s I Love You So Much It Hurts Me with BJ Cole’s pedal steel almost dueting with him as the song meanders delicately along. This love anthem lulls you into false security as a few minutes later he offers up the desolate break-up of Sunk Without Trace that leads neatly into Willie Nelson’s Permanently Lonely, a full four minutes of depressing heartbreak. Though Hank tackles songs by such well-known tunesmiths as Dallas Frazier, Wayne Kemp, the Louvins, Lennon-McCartney, Lucinda Williams, Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, he also proves to be a skilled songwriter himself with eleven self-penned songs that are impressive to say the least. Very much a storyteller, the characters in this album are flawed, but real. They include star-crossed lovers, lonely hearts left behind and unlikely couples brought together by circumstance and torn apart by design, and, ultimately, makes us feel happy that our lives are as good as they are.

He puts his passionate voice front and centre with generally sparse arrangements that allow the lyrics to live and breathe. But his voice is more than just passionate—he totally inhabits the characters in the lyrics of these songs. He is more interested in setting subdued scenes and letting listeners do the rest … he makes lucid use of accompanying instruments, using acoustic guitar, pedal steel, subdued electric lead, fiddle, subtle drums and bass and the occasional harmony vocals of Anna Robinson for little more than ambience. All he needs is a melody and a heartbreaking metaphor or two, and he’ll break it down like a grateful survivor—not a bad thing to be. Hank Wangford proves that melancholy is not just for gloomy winter months, even if this wonderful music may make you long for those when listening to it. Which I very strongly encourage you to do. And enjoy …


Blabber 'n' Smoke

A Glasgow view of Americana and related music and writings

Paul Kerr

Pioneering UK country veteran Hank Wangford has been on a mission for the past thirty years to inform the public that country music is not all rhinestone and showbiz smiles. He’s been smitten by the dark underbelly, the god fearing singer who behind closed doors is a raging drunk pilled to the gills, a monster who writes beautiful songs about death, divorce and drunkenness. Introduced to the music of the patron saint of drunks, George Jones by Gram Parsons (whom Wangford knew at the tail end of the sixties) Wangford was singing country to punk audiences well before Costello went all blue and The Mekons hightailed it to Chicago.

Now Hank wants to reclaim the waltz, the 3/4 signature that fuels the majority of sad country songs. Typically seen today as “middle aged and suburban” as Wangford notes in his short essay in the album booklet, the waltz was seen as decadent when first introduced to English society by Lady Caroline Lamb in 1816 with dancers touching each other’s body, “sex on legs.” He goes on to say “the saddest country songs are in three four. It’s certainly the best rhythm for a slow drunken shuffle in a honky tonk bar with some voluptuous intertwining of limbs.”

So Save Me The Waltz is a double album of slow sad country songs that share that three four rhythm as Hank and the excellent Lost Cowboys take the listener down a lost highway littered with broken souls, cripples, plane wrecks, heartache and sin. A double dose of misery that will delight any connoisseur of the genre( and timely for those who enjoyed My Darling Clementine’s recent albums) as Hank delves into his favourite writers as well as delivering some fine tearjerkers of his own. Willie Nelson scores four covers here while The Louvins, Dallas Frazier, Woody Guthrie and Wayne Kemp get one apiece. More up to date Gram Parsons and Lucinda Williams and surprisingly Lennon/McCartney are also covered.

The band sail through the first disc (entitled The Light with disc two, The Dark) splendidly with the rhythm section (Kevin Foster, bass and Roy Dodds, percussion) laying down an unobtrusive backbeat while Martin Belmont and BJ Cole add lilting pedal steel, throbbing heartbreak guitar and breezy Dobro as Anna Robinson accompanies Wangford on some excellent harmonies. It’s delightful to sit back and wallow in this with the lazy fat guitar of Half A Man and the dappled Appalachian Dobro of Get Acquainted Waltz swim hypnotically in your head. Wangford’s title song itself is somewhat sublime with Belmont curling his guitar licks around the words while Cole lurks mischievously on Dobro and Hank and Anna twirl wondrously around each other on vocals.

Disc two (The Dark) is less comfortable, edgier and, well, darker. Waltzing With Sin features Larry Love of the Alabama 3 ( thanked in the liner notes for sounding like Richard Burton on acid) and it’s a big production number with fuzz guitar and space age cosmic pedal steel, fantastic. Baby’s In Black is another fuzz fuelled pedal steel driven epic (think Sneaky Pete here, hot railing the Burritos) with some pummelling percussion. It’s notable that Wangford penned most of the songs here and by and large they stand up to scrutiny compared to the covers. Lies is tied to the roots of Nelson and Jones while Lonely Together is a fine riposte to Willie Nelson’s Permanently Lonely as Wangford injects some hope and optimism while maintaining the sad slow waltz melody. While Lonely Together is one of five songs on the album previously released it fits the concept so well we have to pause while the beauty of this song hits home and listen to it again as The Lost Cowboys deliver a master class in aching country music. Mention should be made of two songs recorded with Billy Bragg in the eighties (and released as B sides to Bragg singles), a fine rendition of Sin City and a heartfelt Deportees which sit well within the album.

Save The Waltz is obviously a labour of love for Wangford who in his 73rd year could reasonably be expected to be sitting at home, pipe and slippers to hand. Instead he’s hitting the road with The Lost Cowboys and he’s in Glasgow next week (Thursday 15th May) at the 02 ABC. With Martin Belmont and BJ Cole in the band you get three legends for the price of one.







BACK when he was known as Dr Samuel Hutt, Hank Wangford rubbed up against the good, the bad and the ugly of rock’n’roll at his London drug addiction clinic.
Hank Wangford & The Lost Cowboys - ABC2, Glasgow

But it was a fateful meeting with Gram Parsons which put him on the country music path, and country has served him well ever since.

Delighted to be back on his old Sauchiehall Street stomping ground after too long an absence from the scene, the 73-year-old looked lithe and stylish in his embroidered shirt and sounded even better as he blurred the boundary between bone-dry originals and classics from the country canon with the sterling backing of his Lost Cowboys – easygoing drummer Roy Dodds (Eddi Reader), the plangent playing of guitarist Martin Belmont (Nick Lowe/The Rumour), esteemed pedal steel maestro BJ Cole, who took the dreamy lead on Santo & Johnny’s Sleep Walk, and new girl Anna “Spanner” Robinson on bass and vocals, who put her spiritual house in order on a capella harmony duet Insured Beyond The Grave.

Wangford was an engaging advocate of the devastating domestic vignettes of Willie Nelson and George Jones, the tragic melodrama of the waltz-time repertoire and the masochistic catharsis of a right good divorce song, wallowing in the “industrial strength misery” of Nelson’s Half A Man.

But there was no need to fret for Hank’s home life – the glamorous Mrs Wangford was by his side to model some practical promotional items from the merchandise stall.


"A magnificent night."

With his fine new double album, Save Me The Waltz, safely in his saddlebag veteran Hank Wangford ambled into town with his posse, The Lost Cowboys, in tow looking to entertain the folks on Sauchiehall Street.

Seriously this was a welcome return to Glasgow for Wangford who has roots in the city (which was his mother’s birthplace) with several audience members recalling fabled Mayfest community shows in the likes of Castlemilk Community Centre (although the primary recollection there was of the band having much of their gear nicked!). Tonight Wangford was backed by a stellar line up which included guitar and pedal steel wizards Martin Belmont (Ducks Deluxe, Graham Parker and The Rumour, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Carlene Carter) and BJ Cole (Cochise, Deke Leonard’s Help Yourself and innumerable sessions including Elton John’s Tiny Dancer along with appearances with REM, David Gilmour and Iggy Pop). Rock history in person! Aided and abetted by drummer Roy Dodds (ex Fairground Attraction) and bassist/harmony singer Anna (Spanner) Robinson (The Hallelujah Trails) the five piece set up was at times magnificent with Dodds and Robinson setting the pace with some aplomb while Belmont and Cole showed why they are so sought after as throughout the night they pulled out some astonishing licks.

Aside from the sheer pleasure of hearing some top notch musicians doing what they do best Wangford remains a singularly good frontman. Wearing his years very well (and looking as if he could well take up Kris Kristofferson’s Hollywood role as the wise and grizzled cowpoke should Kris ever retire) he commanded attention as he related his love of the country waltz and offered potted histories of some of the legends who wrote the songs including the unfortunately named Bollick Brothers who eventually saw sense and renamed themselves the Blue Sky Boys, as Hank said “you don’t have to make this up, it’s all out there.” With particular attention to Willie Nelson and George Jones, Wangford proselytised on their behalf and as the songs poured out the attraction was plain to see. Nelson’s Permanently Lonely and Half A Man along with Jones’ Brown To Blue and Golden Rings were well served while the essential banality of song titles such as He Forgot To Tell You He Was Married and Let’s Be Lonely Together Tonight was undermined by the heartfelt delivery.

Mischievous as ever Wangford delighted in picking up his ukulele and teaching the audience the choruses of several of the songs pointing out their simplicity all the while celebrating that self same simplicity. The audience duly sang along as the sorrowful waltz time songs surely invited some tears in beers in the back rows. With some fine low strung twang guitar and country runs along with weeping pedal steel or Dobro the venue was slowly transformed into a south west honky tonk. Ms. Robinson took lead vocals on the excellent Insured Beyond The Grave while Cole was afforded the opportunity to beguile us with an inspired dreamlike rendition of Santo and Johnny’s Sleepwalk , a tune that inspired him (along with Peter Green) all those years ago. And while most of the night was an invite to waltz with Wangford there were some moments when the band let rip with Baby In Black conjoining Nashville and Liverpool while He Forgot To Tell You He Was Married rocked with the energy and feel of Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen. A magnificent night.