Singer/songwriter Joey Allcorn ain't at all your typical country music artist. Clad in a white Western-style suit and hat, he looks like he just walked off the Grand Ole Opry stage ... in 1947. With a nasally croon and a dash of hillbilly yodel, he sounds more like a singing cowboy from an episode of the Louisiana Hayride than anyone on the CMT video countdown.
As the title of his latest studio album, 50 Years Too Late, implies, Allcorn draws from an early era of American music. He gladly embraces the style and spirit of those vintage country singers and honky-tonkers — especially the legendary Hank Williams Sr. — and applies it to his own original music.
"No doubt, it was hearing Hank Williams Sr.," says Allcorn, speaking from a recent road trip to Florida. "When I was 14, my mom bought a Hank Sr. album and I just kinda stole it from her [laughs]. I started playing out around Georgia when I was 18 and got in with the Hank Williams Museum people in Montgomery, Ala. I got in to that and then thought, well, who did Hank listen to? And it was Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb. Who was on the charts at the same time with Hank? It was Left Frizzell and Faron Young and guys like that. For me, it all started with Hank and branched out from there.
"The biggest gripe I hear is that I'm simply ripping off Hank Williams Sr." he adds. "One time, a writer from Charlotte approached me at a bar and asked, 'How far do you think you're gonna get imitating a dead guy?' I asked him what he meant, and he said, 'Well, you're sitting here wearing the suit and hat like Hank Williams.' I said,' Damn! I was trying to rip off Ernest Tubb.' Everyone comes from somewhere and I come from listening to Hank Williams and that music."
Much of 50 Years Too Late swings and stomps with that familiar 2/4 country beat — slow songs of loneliness and heartache and up-tempo ravers about life's wilder adventures, from the roadhouses to the graveyards. It's swingin' stuff in its own stylish way ... but don't call it rockabilly.
"A lot of people used to call it rockabilly, just because we had an upright bass player in the band," Alllcorn chuckles. "I don't consider what we do to be rockabilly. The stuff that sounds like early Elvis and Carl Perkins — that's real rockabilly."
Allcorn, 26, grew up in mid-state Georgia, mostly in Columbus, and started playing professionally in high school and college.
On this summer's tour, he and his backing trio dish out a mix of outlaw country favorites, vintage hits from the 1940s and '50s, and most of his recent original material. His current band call themselves "Joey Allcorn & The Memphis Three." The lineup includes longtime drummer Mark Day, lead guitarist Walter Hughes, and bassist Shannon Smith.
"There are a lot of guys out there who do 'traditional country,' but they tend to sound more like Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings," Allcorn says. "The only other bands who are doing the kind of thing I do are BR549 and a few others. I was asked in a recent interview what I thought of guys like Alan Jackson and George Strait. I said they're all right because they still hold on to some of what it should sound like. They're not rolling around on a beach in a cowboy hat. I respect that."