The problem with "revival" records from "oldies" artists is that they usually fall into two categories. Either the recordings try to meticulously recapture their old sound with an almost sterile purity, or they are a shameless attempt to try and update the performer with
whatever's the new, hot sound of the moment. Thankfully, Dale Hawkins resisted any notion to phone up either Brian Setzer or Puffy Combs.
Recorded and self-produced down in his studio in Arkansas, "Wildcat Tamer" is a ramshackle revelation for those who think that there wasn't much to know about Hawkins past his classic song, "Susie Q". His newest recordings expose many of Hawkins's influences that spice his musical gumbo. Besides the expected rockabilly, Hawkins also dips into some loping western swing on "Summertime Down South" (with the help of
fiddler Vassar Clements) as well as the swamp music sounds ("Born in Louisiana") that he would later inspire in CCR. He particularly surprises with his raw blues. Helped by RL Burnside's guitarist, Kenny Brown (whose recent CD was produced by Hawkins), songs like "Take It Home" successfully capture the hypnotic swirl of the north Mississippi juke joints.
Much like Revenant's essential Charlie Feathers compilation, "Wildcat Tamer" shows that rockabilly was really only the commercial sound of the moment for many rural, southern players. From his days working at Stan Lewis's record shop in Shreveport to his nights playing with future guitar greats like James Burton and Roy Buchanan, Dale Hawkins absorbed all the sounds around him whether black or white. Decades later, listeners finally have a chance to hear the breadth of this experience.