Calling Ted Hawkins a blues artist unnecessarily narrows the breath of the man’s repertoire and reach. Closer to a modern troubadour his songbook drew on a wealth of music and influences. Busking on the sidewalks of Venice Beach for years he cultivated a sound steeped in the blues and rock and roll, Stax-era soul, American folk, Country and spirituals as well. But unlike Hendrix, a return to the streets and anonymity marked his return to the States in the early 90s. Only in 1993, after getting a lucky break from Geffen records, did his music find widespread American acclaim.
Echoes of 70s singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Simon & Garfunkel surface in his richly rendered musical stories. His approach was minimalist, basic unadorned guitar chords and an honest roughhewn vocal delivery filled with pure emotion and pathos. This disc captures the best segments of a concert tape recorded privately by Michael Messer, a slide guitarist whose star is currently on the rise. Hawkins was in relaxed and focused form on the date cycling through many of his favorite tunes and pausing frequently for friendly exchanges with the London audience. Perfectly in touch with his limitations as a guitarist he openly admits his shortcomings to the crowd and his self-effacing statements only add to the intimate charm of his performance. In his own words “I’m just a busker off the beach...you won’t get no heavy metal here.”
Highlights of the well-rounded program include a shimmering reading of Curtis Mayfield’s classic “Gypsy Woman” stripped to spare rhythmic simplicity and the raw rock & roll beat of the emphatic warning tale “Watch Your Step.” Hawkins’ music touches the heart via the ears not through jaw dropping virtuosity, but through a plain and unassuming directness. Sadly, despite this disc’s assertion of his invincibility Hawkins mortal form left the world in 1995. But his legacy is one that proves once again that music of high quality and longevity can be achieved through the simple means of a single voice and acoustic guitar.
Catfish on the web: http://www.catfishrecords.co.uk/
Personnel: Ted Hawkins- vocals & guitar. Recorded: December 18, 1988, London, England.