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Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004 08:07 pm

now playing 10-21-04

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Butch Hancock

What do you mean, you've never heard of Butch Hancock? I suppose you'll also say you haven't heard of Joe Ely or Jimmie Dale Gilmore or the Flatlanders, either? Well, how about Buddy Holly or Bob Wills? Ah yes, now we're getting somewhere. And that somewhere is Lubbock, Texas.

That dusty town way out west on the high plains has produced an extraordinary number of influential musicians, especially considering its smallish population and the fact that it doesn't seem to be the most creative place on earth. But sometimes that stuff will fool you. Why write or draw or create something out of nothing when you already have all you need in real life?

Some artists -- Bob Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minn., among them -- credit boring surroundings with heightened creativity. In an interview with Chris Oglesby on the Virtualubbock Web site (virtualubbock.com), Hancock talks about living near Lubbock and the effect of natural surroundings on the muse: "The great thing about West Texas is that, with any idea you have out there, you're kind of stuck with it for awhile, or you have the opportunity to hang with it. You see something over on the horizon 30 miles ahead when you're driving down the highway and it's gonna be in your consciousness for the next 30 minutes, until you've driven over there those 30 miles."

With songs cut by Ely, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and Rosie Flores and several album releases of his own over the last 25 years, the man has obviously driven plenty of West Texas highways. His two most covered tunes are "If You Were a Bluebird" and "Boxcars." He also holds a bachelor's degree in architecture and shows his photographs in galleries around the country. Songwriting, though, is his calling and his strength. Hancock describes the process in the Virtualubbock interview: "It's kinda like air, and water. It goes where it can go, and fills what it can fill. I think it just imprints a pattern and a rhythm over probably everything in your unconscious."

Butch Hancock plays songs from the West Plains of Texas at 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, in the Underground City Tavern, Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530.

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