Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Nighthawks -- "Damn Good Time"

The Nighthawks have been on the road playing great blues music for over 40 years now. think about that for a second, and give thanks. Forty years! And the current band of Mark Wenner (harp and vocals, although everybody in the Nighthawks sings) and Paul Bell (on guitar) and Johnny Castle (on bass) and Mark Stutso (on drums) is playing better than ever and finally getting some much-deserved recognition.

From the website: In 2009, Sirius XM’s Bill Wax, having heard that The Nighthawks were playing some acoustic shows, invited the band to record some live tracks for his “B.B. King’s Bluesville” channel. In less than two hours, the band cut almost a dozen tunes. A week later, Bill handed them a mixed version with permission to release. After Bill Wolf's magic-touch in the mastering, "Last Train to Bluesville" was released on RipBang Records. With the able assistance of publicist Mark Pucci and radio promoter Todd Glazer, the CD won Acoustic Album of the Year at the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards in Memphis in May 2011.

I really liked "Last Train To Bluesville" and I like "Damn Good Time" even more. These guys have paid their dues and it shows--there's a moment in nearly every song here where I just lean a little closer to the speakers to hear the magic getting made. An early favorite for Bruce's Album of the Year, this disc just cooks throughout. Every song shows a different flavor, but like barbecue, every flavor is spot-on, rich and tasty. Highly recommended.

More from the website: “This album represents the next chapter, after American Landscape,” Mark Wenner says, “and it’s still true to the fundamental blueprint laid out in 1974’s Rock & Roll.

Mark goes on to talk about some of the songs on the CD and how they were developed for the recording:

“Why not start with ‘Too Much,’ the Elvis tune my grandma bought me at Sam Goody's in New York for my 8th birthday? Taking it back toward its R&B roots, the song is now channeled through the ghost of Jimmy Reed.

“Next up is one we learned working behind blue-eyed-soul monster Billy Price, ‘Who You’re Workin’ For.’ I thought I'd take a crack at a different vocal interpretation. Billy wrote this one with the late, great Glenn Pavone.

“'Damn Good Time,’ the title cut, started as a country song. When the late Warren King brought it to Mark Stutso, it had been taken to Soulsville. Mark took it from there, and he and Johnny finished it. The title does say it, doesn't it?

“’Minimum Wage’ comes out of Mark Stutso's Pittsburgh musical brain-trust with the mad genius, Norm Nardini. ‘Down to My Last Million Tears’ and ‘Heartbreak Shake’ are also products of the Nardini/Stutso mob. ‘Tears’ is the perfect R&B grinding shuffle and ‘Heartbreak’ rocks it on out.

“'Bring Your Sister’ shows how much Johnny, already the king of garage rock, has learned hanging out with the boss of power pop, Nick Lowe.

“’Send for Me,’ Nat King Cole's most rockin’ cut, is lightened into the perfect follow-up to our version of the Buddy Johnson classic and crowd favorite ‘Pretty Girls and Cadillacs.’

“Jimmy McCracklin wrote ‘Georgia Slop’ about an actual joint, Peg Leg Lee's, that was about a mile from present-day Atlanta blues haven Blind Willie's. ‘Nightwork’ is another tune we learned backing Billy Price. People like to holler on that one”

After 40 years, The Nighthawks are still having a Damn Good Time. And so will you. Listen up!

You can buy this cd at:

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