With Tryin' To Get To You, their thirty-first album in a prolific near fifty-year career, The Nighthawks provide testament to their own longevity and that of the blues genre itself. Even regular turnover of personnel has not diminished the power and efficacy of this group's playing, perhaps because, as new members come and go, founding member Mark Wenner on harmonica and vocals remains as staunch a linchpin as any veteran band could want.
A baker's dozen tracks recorded and mixed by David Earl run the gamut of style and span the stereo spectrum as mastered by Charlie Pilzer. "Come Love" is a mid-tempo shuffle, opening the album as if the band is revving its engine. And sure enough, swift shifting of gears arrives in the form of the slow menace of "Rain Down Tears" and the jump tune "I Know Your Wig Is Gone." Sly and wry as that latter number sounds, recent recruit Dan Hovey's guitar flashes even as the rhythm remains stable through the growing bond between long-time 'Hawks' drummer Mark Stutso and new bassist Paul Pisciotta.
The Nighthawks circa 2020 hardly sound intimidated at the prospect or the performances of a songs by a genuine icon such as the latter of T-Bone Walker's. Or, for that matter James Brown's "Tell Me What I Did Wrong." But it's a further tribute to the graceful humility of this ensemble that original material such as Hovey's "Baby It's Time" and an acoustic(!) closer called "The Cheap Stuff" sound of a piece with those covers. And juxtaposing the Cesar Rojas/Louie Perez song of Los Lobos,' "Don't Worry Baby," only further illustrates how many different sources and forms exist of contemporary blues. Hear the jaunty, earthy likes of "Luscious" for further proof on that point as well as living breathing demonstration of this foursome's camaraderie.
None of which might matter much if this co-production by David Earl and the band itself didn't remain true to the roots and yet allow for embroidery upon them. That said, nothing the band does in composing and playing goes on too long here. Or at least that's how it seems, even apart from running times of tracks almost exclusively in the three-minute range, including more Stutso co-writes with Norman Nardini (he of Diamond Reo fame and leader of The Tigers); tunes like "I Hate A Nickel" and "Somethin's Cookin" only add to the diversity in play here.
Yet, both those numbers also sound cut from the whole cloth of vintage blues in both structure and arrangement. The first stop-and-go structure comes ornamented with wailing harp, while the second finds the quartet moving in leaps and bounds, goosed by Hovey guitar as mirrored by Wenner's pointed blowing. This music sounds perfectly natural for these Nighthawks. In contrast to far too many of their contemporaries bent on proving their own authenticity, the legitimacy of these longstanding purveyors of the blues is beyond reproach.
Come Love; I Know Your Wig Is Gone; Tell Me What I Did Wrong; Tryin' to Get To You; Baby It's Time; I Hate A Nickel; Rain Down Tears; Somethin's Cookin'; Searching For My Baby; Don't worry Baby; Luscious; Chairman of the Board; The Cheap Stuff.
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