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.