In the old days, country music had singing cowboys, not to mention the Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Singing Ranger, Hank Snow. How times have changed. First there was Cleve Francis, Alexandria, Va.’s very own singing cardiologist. Now Alexandria boasts another doctor moonlighting as a country performer, Bill Hanff. Don’t call him the Singing Orthopedic Surgeon, though. “I’m not a doctor who happens to be a singer,” says Hanff, a Georgetown University Medical School graduate. “I’m a singer who happens to have a day job as a doctor.” To drive his point home, Hanff has dropped his former stage name, Doctor Bill, for his second release, In the Zone.
A collection of dance numbers and soft weepers, Zone displays the sheen of a major Nashville production, which in fact it was. Hanff was impressed by the renowned professionalism of the Music City session players: “Those guys take no prisoners,” he says admiringly. “It was really enjoyable.” The album’s standout tracks, “Comfort Zone” and “No Future in the Past,” were penned by Billy “I Can Help” Swan. (“He’s a good friend,” says Hanff.) Though the first single, “Miss Goody Two Shoes,” has received sparse airplay, it’s been getting heavy rotation at country dance clubs across the country.
Hanff is a crooner in the New Country mode that owes more to pop stylings than that old high-lonesome sound. You won’t hear any nasal whining on his records: “Someone described me as genteel, and I think that’s right,” he says. His smooth voice is all he’s got to sell, and the 50-year-old makes no claims to competing with Nashville’s pinup boys: “I don’t look good in tight jeans. I’m not Alan Jackson. But I feel there is a place for me in country.” If not on the charts, at least in the line-dancing clubs.
The CD is available at local record stores and for $15.95 from Virginia Records, 422 Mamaroneck Ave., Mamaroneck, NY 10543.—Eddie Dean