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renaissance man who can’t seem to decide if he’s a songwriter, painter, photographer, whitewater guide, architect or small businessman, and doesn’t particularly feel any need to make the distinctionHancock says “I’ve just been telling everybody it’s kind of in the pop/rock world. As long as everybody is using categories and things, I think that’s the only one that makes any sense to me. I think it belongs there… maybe on the fringes, but that kind of thing.” BUTCH HANCOCK USES the phrase “kind of ceaselessly in conversation. He positions it in front of any statement that might otherwise sound a bit too, well, definitive. It’s as if he doesn’t want to nail his judgements to the wall, but rather let them float around the room for a spell and find their own resting places. It’s a telling habit that goes a long way towards explaining the charm of his lyricslyrics that, even after being accessorized with top-notch professionalism, remain at the heart of Eats Away the Night’s appeal. Lyrics like “they asked each other … well what if? / and with no replies under starry skies / they escaped to the mountains and found a / cave in a cliff / and they made love there the whole night thru / Eileen, I sure wouldn’t mind / doin’ something like that with you.” Lyrics like “you tell me time’s gonna serve me right / well … time doesn’t serve anybody right … or wrong / it just eats away the night.” Hancock’s songs carry built-in ambiguities, little breathing spaces in the tune to let your imagination seep into the song’s crevices and take up residence. Hancock doesn’t write the sort of hook-dependent tunes that jump out of the radio and demand your attention, but rather the sort that ask to be lived in for awhile, explored for a few days, before the investment’s rewards emerge into relief. That’s the best way to listen to Hancock, maybe because that’s the way he writes. “Actually,” he says, “I’m lazier than most people think. Sometimes I go for long periods of time where it seems like I’m getting nothing done, and then all of a sudden I’ll finish up a bunch of stuff that I’ve apparently been working on, kind of behind my own back. Songs kind of accumulate sometimes. I don’t just sit down and say ‘I’m going to write a song today’I never have been that kind of person. I might be in the middle of a drawing, or working in the darkroom, and suddenly I realize I’ve been working on a song in the back of my mind.” That kind of casual inspiration has been responsible for a flood of often-inspired Hancock material over the past two decadeswhat other musician could play a six-night stand at Austin’s Cactus Cafe, as Hancock did in 1990, and release the results as 14 cassettes collectively titled No Two Alike?and it continues to serve him well on the new recording. But what distinguishes the often-inspired Eats Away the Night is the attention to detail, the accessibility of the package to a larger market that may or may not know Hancock’s work firsthand. In that sense, it’s tempting to think of Eats Away the Night as Hancock’s definitive statement. So be it. But the fact of the matter is that it’s just one more especially shiny artifact of a life-project that’s the envy of genuinely lazy folks everywhere. If you press him, Hancock will explain that the slick gloss of Eats Away the Night seemed to him “like a good step in the direction of trying to expand the horizons a little bit.” But ask him about another of his fabled projectshis semi-legendary, semiridiculous quest to construct the world’s first adobe airplaneand you’ll get an answer that better describes his take on the creative process. “Well, you know,” he’ll say, “it’s not quite off the ground yet. It’s still drying.” CLASSIFIEDS ORGANIZATIONS WORK for single-payer National Health Care. 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Address orders and inquiries to Advertising Director, The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th, Austin, TX BOOKS 20 APRIL 7, 1995