Reviewed March 2009
By The Nighthawks
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The Nighthawks' blue collar, blues-rock sound has been honed over three and a half decades of touring, recording and gigging worldwide. Originally co-founded by Jimmy Thackery, who went solo in 1987, the band has released more than 20 discs featuring full-bore, stripped-down roots music.
Their latest, "American Landscape," shows that they are still going strong.
Drawing material from both originals and a patchwork of classic blues and R&B sources, the Washington, D.C. quartet starts the 12-song disc strong with "Big Boy", featuring a reverbed vocal from singer-harpist Mark Wenner. The ability of the band to find a blues-funk groove in almost any song is evident in three tunes by Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Ike Turner which are consecutively sequenced on the disc without missing a beat. Waits' tune, "Down in the Hole," casts a dark, old-gospel feel, while a rocked-up version of "She Belongs to Me" works surprisingly well, using the 12-bar structure of the tune to move it forward. Turner's "Matchbox" gets a straight-ahead treatment featuring sharp guitar lines by Paul Bell and sung by excellent drummer Pete Ragusa.
Other cuts that stand out are "Jana Lea," a brisk, Texas roadhouse-blues style romp by bassist Johnny Castle, and "Don't Turn Your Heater Down," a double-entendre funk piece co-written by Steve Cropper. Dylan's pen makes another appearance with "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine," this time not as easily rearranged into a freely flowing blues piece and sounding somewhat clumsy. Most listeners will recognize the final cut, "Fishin' Hole Theme," as the theme from "The Andy Griffith Show," redone with harp and swing-jazz guitar.
"American Landscape" offers a veteran band, all masters of their instruments without trying to hog the spotlight. The group works together to mold the tunes into a foot-stomping good time that makes for a great listen.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.