The Nighthawks started up a ground-level, proletarian, working man's blues band in 1974. It's now 40 years later, and they show signs neither of letting up nor of slowing down. As is said of them, 'long before anyone talked about roots rock, Americana, indie rock, or alt-country, The Nighthawks were already playing it!'. This time around, however, their debut on the EllerSoul label, they're grittier, funkier, and more down home than ever. The boys have never made a secret of their love of Muddy Waters, carrying at least one of the legend's tracks on every release, but I'm tellin' y'all, they're occupying a more clearly Omar Kent Dykes stratum here as well, oft rasty and sassy, earthy and late night dark, gruff and cocksure, especially in the second cut, Livin' the Blues.
The CD starts out, though, with a heavy-duty, gospely, folksy stomp and rave-up, Walk that Walk, a cut to make ya wanna traipse out to the backyard and highstep the git-down, Mark Wenner's harmonica wailing to keep things juiced up and jumpin'. The disc's titular mystery is revealed in the trey cut, 444 A.M., a Stray Cats exercise in hillbilly blues. That's replaced with You're Gone, which draws a line between all the aforegoing, and well, I gotta say: I've dug the 'Hawks since I discovered 'em a little belatedly in the used bins in a platter shop in the late 70s, but this gig's underscoring the ensemble like never before, even to the extent that one detects a bit of the Southern rockers (Black Oak Arkansas came to my ears in Honky Tonk Queen) and then some Elvis (Got a Lot of Livin'), Paul Bell's guitar work particularly tickling in the latter.
If the younger generations expected musicians and the more resilient of we Baby Boomers to step aside any time soon, I'm afraid they're in for a HUGE disappointment 'cause we're getting crustier than ever. All that grizzle and hardtack, the hassle and bugtussling for so many years from the VietNam fiasco up to this very minute, all the too many problems have only made us more fiery, though we do know how to cool out, as the 'Hawks show on Crawfish and its Spencer Davis I'm a Man overtones. Of course, then Bell's slide comes burning in on the follower, Price of Love, in a nice meaty intro, and it's back to the coal mine, jumping into the thick of it while hootin' 'n hollerin'. I'd like to say The Nighthawks are a party band, but you might picture the J. Geils Band, and that'd be a big mistake. The Hawks are leaner, meaner, and work from the bone marrow outwards. The Geils Band was superficial. I'm talking here about a delta confab with dirty rice, gumbo, étouffée…and plenty of alcohol, the sorta gig a working man could feel right at home with…and does.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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