A late-blooming baby-boomer, Hank Stone has been writing songs for over 40 years, but only started to bring them to audiences in 2001. His first disc, "Rough Folk" (2005), was just that: tales of some very rough people, each song in a different stylistic vein, with Hank's guitar and harmonica complemented by producer Tony DeStefano's fluent bass work, and some touches of flute, piano, etc. They purposely left some of the rough edges, and the disc has a spontaneous feel.
"Until I Saw That Train" (2012) continues in those many veins but expands the palette, with guest players providing some warm accompaniment: Russ Seeger on fiddle, Don Rynd on banjo, Rob Stein on pedal steel, Sid Cherry on accordion. Hank's trio, also called Rough Folk, appears here on a few tracks, Mike Christian on drums instead of his bass, and Todd Evans with some tasty guitar licks. Producer DeStefano returns with stellar bass work throughout, and piano, recorder, and whistle. Stone's songwriting, singing, and playing have all progressed and deepened, with the addition of the use of partial and multiple capos, and several different harmonica styles.
The wit in these lyrics never obscures or negates the compassion of the storytelling here. It's the classic "laugh to keep from crying" gambit used in the blues, and in old folk tunes. "Toodle-Oo" and "Rattlesnake Train" are two sides of the same coin, the urge to wander either pushing or pulling. The former tune paints an idyllic future, while the Dylanesque apocalyptic visions of the latter are echoed in "Adam's Blues." There's nostalgia for childhood innocence ("Sycamore"), a clever reworking of a Robert Johnson blues, a piano ballad that's a soaring elegy for George Harrison, a faux sea chanty, and more, topped off with what is certain to become a sing-along favorite, "Sailor's Haven." Not to mention the bonus track!
All in all, the kind of record you don't hear lately, that will surprise and delight you at every turn.