Captain Moonlight: Love's losers go out with a twang

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THE CAPTAIN has a tear in his eye and a throb in his heart. It's hurting. Seems kids today want nothing to do with country music. According to the Policy Studies Institute, fewer than 1 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds bought a country album last year. Even fewer 16- to 24-year- olds bought one. Nothing I have read recently has made me fear more for the future of this country. Generations are growing up without the knowledge that there are others out there who know the pain love brings and can sing about it. Dolly, Tammy and Johnny are on our side. They know life is Hobbesian, and their art is a defiant celebration of it.

But there are pockets of resistance. Country is still big in East Anglia. A driving school near the Wash is called El Passo. And on Friday I spoke to the legendary Hank Wangford, fresh from a gig in Preston, under 24 hours from Worksop, en route for Harrogate and the Bottom Line, Shepherd's Bush, this Friday. Hank's day job is gynaecology. His real name is Sam Hutt; he took his name from Wangford in Suffolk because it had a ring to it. His current band is The Lost Cowboys.

Hank, it has to be said, did not seem overconcerned about reports of country music's demise. He was used to them, and, anyway he quite enjoyed flogging a dead horse around the land. He loved country, he said, for the words and the tunes, for 'rhinestones you find among the dross'. No, he said, country did not take itself entirely seriously: 'It's got this lovely irony in it.' Two of his favourite titles were 'Walk Out Backwards So I'll Think You're Coming In' and 'I'll Be Over You When The Grass Grows Over Me'. The Captain says: this is an art form which must not be allowed to die. His favourite title is 'Bury Me In My Shades'.

(Photograph omitted)

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