The Nighthawks | Tryin’ To Get To You | (EllerSoul)
4 out of 5 stars
Any act staking a claim as roots/Americana veterans better be prepared to answer to these guys first. The Washington, D.C. based Nighthawks are pushing 50 years as an ongoing entity, having played every dive bar, juke joint and lowdown club in the country, many of them multiple times. You can practically trace the hard living and endless one-night-stand road dates by the designs etched into frontman co-founder/singer/harp player Mark Wenner’s heavily tattooed torso. With various Nighthawks configurations, he has been there, done that and has the catalog of albums—many now out of print—to prove it. It’s possible even he doesn’t remember how many labels the band has recorded for.
Somewhat amazingly, the group moves into its fifth decade with the EllerSoul imprint firmly in their corner. Their fifth release for the company is yet another example, if anyone needed one at this stage, of how eclectic, energized and robust The Nighthawks remain. It’s another vibrant batch of retro rocking, blues, R&B, and rockabilly covers and originals, the ingredients that have always fueled their sound.
From the Los Lobos’ rollicking “Don’t Worry Baby,” to the chugging “I’m a Man” styled stop-start pumping version of The Chairman of the Board’s self-named track, Jimmy Reed’s shuffling “Come Love,” James Brown’s hard grooving soul of “Tell Me What Did I Do Wrong,” and the Motown-inflected Manhattan’s “Searchin’ For My Baby,” this is yet another authentic slab of the tough, rugged and sometimes surprisingly tender (a sweet version of Hank Ballard’s “Rain Down Tears”), smorgasbord the band has been serving up since the Nixon administration.
Like most Nighthawks platters, they expand from their blues base to the jumping jive of “I Know Your Wig Is Gone,” a swinging jazz tune that could easily have been penned by Louis Jordan, and the finger popping “Somethin’s Cookin’” featuring the nimble picking of guitarist Don Hovey. Anyone who has experienced the Nighthawks’ sweat soaked sets knows this collective is incapable of phoning it in. And that goes for the thirteen tracks filling 45 minutes of roots American music on yet another prime disc to add to the group’s bulging catalog.
Those new to these road hardened troupers can start here and work their way back through the Nighthawks’ multiple party-ready releases throughout the decades; all of them, like this, capsules of American roots music in many of its most classic blues and rock and roll forms.
It’s an exhilarating ride.
If you are first time Nighthawks listener, or longtime fan, you can support them here.