Back Down To Louisiana
For those who don't know, here's what we can tell you about Dale Hawkins (just to name a few):
This Louisiana native is one of rock n roll's early heroes.
- He is the cousin of Ronnie Hawkins, the man who gave the band their start.
- He gave career boosts to guitarists like James Burton and Roy Buchanan.
- He wrote and performed one of rock's classic songs, Suzie Q.
- Along with the great Bobby Charles, he was also one of the only white musicians to record for Chess Records, home of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Dale Hawkins is not only his career accomplishments, but his creative longevity.
I had the pleasure of reviewing Hawkins' last record, Wildcat Tamer, when it was released back in 1999. That record was amazing. Now, he returns with a raw-sounding rocker called Back Down To Louisiana.
The ramshackle building that graces the cover of the record gives a good indication of the sound within. Everything sounds like a first take which creates a sense of magical discovery. Hawkins voice has some years on it, but this only adds to the beauty of the performances.
The tracks were recorded in Nashville and Louisiana, and we don't really know which ones were done where. It doesn't really matter because they all have the same great feeling.
Hawkins put together a crack band that includes some interesting names. Much like he plucked out Burton and Buchanan, Hawkins aligns himself with a couple of great guitarists from down south, Kenny Brown and Kenny Bill Stinson. Also on board is pianist Hargus "Pig" Robbins, recently named by Jim Dickinson in his recent Swampland contribution as one of his all time great players.
Back Down To Louisiana has it all. New Generation rocks with a Chuck Berry stomp. Bang, Bang sounds like something from Johnny Cash's catalog. All the way along, there is a musical gumbo brewed out of stinging slide guitar mixed with dobro and even some pedal steel on Feeling Like a King.
Beginning with the title track, the record starts to take on an otherworldly vibe. There is so little structure that the music just flows. Roll With the Flow follwed by This Love of Mine sounds like Eddie Hinton crossed with Van Morrison played in an old roadhouse. The next track, Shake, sounds like a Tony Joe White outtake.
This all makes sense because Hawkins, White, Hinton, and Cash all come from the same place, same soil. Hawkins connects to it directly just like they do. This loose and rollicking collection from this southern song crafter shows musicians years younger the power of music unbound.
Whether this is the plan or not, Dale Hawkins checks in once every decade with a record just to remind everyone that he was an originator and that he's still got the goods. Back Down To Louisiana is a gem of the highest order.
- Jim Markel