War and Peace

Civilizations wearin’ thin/Like an old sad shirt.” BUTCH HANCOCK pulls no punches on his latest diatribe, WAR AND PEACE (Two Roads). Hancock emerges from his Terlingua exile with his first solo album in six years, and he’s obviously been brooding out in the desert. Those reticent to have another singer explain peace=good, war=bad should observe caution: There’s a lot of that here, along with other familiar targets—greed, piousness, xenophobia. Leftist intellectuals will bristle at the oil and voting-machine conspiracies. Neocons will find the attacks on Bush and religious zeal hard to swallow. In between, the preaching limits Hancock’s usual poeticism; a few times it sinks things entirely. But there are triumphs, like the wistful, if false, hope of “Toast” (“I raise a glass/I banish thought”). Best of all is the opener, rendered a cappella—brave for a singer whose weather-beaten voice is at best an acquired taste. “Go find someone who’s thirsty,” he sings, “and give them water.” There’s perhaps a bit too much water under the bridge in today’s world for that to work, but Hancock’s passion is palpable enough to convince you otherwise.

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