Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ernie Hawkins Ain't no Whinin' Boy

A new album by the fingerstyle guitarist Ernie Hawkins, Whinin’ Boy, represents a change in pace. Hawkins, a disciple of the the legendary Reverend Gary Davis, has distinguished himself as a masterful guitarist in the blues and ragtime vein pioneered by Davis, as well as a teacher of that and other acoustic blues styles. The present album has him playing material in the vein of early classic jazz and pop in small group settings with the contributions of Paul Consentino on clarinet, Joe Dallas on trombone and James Moore on trumpet worth mentioning.

The album has him in a variety of settings including the skittle jazz band format with clarinet, trumpet, trombone, tuba and washboard backing for Jelly Roll Morton’s title track that opens the album with his understated vocal and simple rhythmic guitar. Clarinet is spotlighted on a reworking of Song (of the Islands), associated with Bix Beiderbecke as Hawkins’ comps in a pianistic vein. There is a brief washboard break. Dallas quotes The Wedding March to open the rendition of Makin’ Whoopee, with its wry opening lyric about weddings and that its not so bad being the groom. Hawkins delivers a simply delivered vocal. The Southbound Sneak, is a slow original Hawkins’ rag-flavored original with tuba and trombone followed by a rendition of the venerable Basin Street Blues, with a fuller band.

The amusing My Poodle Has Fleas has Hawkins adept ukelele backed by tuba and washboard. It is followed by a rendition of Little Brother Montgomery’s Vicksburg Blues, with nice harmonica from Marc Reisman. It is interesting to listen to this piano blues transposed to guitar. I’m Coming Virginia, associated with Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer, is reworked into a pensive guitar feature for Hawkins. Louis Armstrong’s Weather Bird (Rag) is reworked to showcase Hawkins’ adept finger picking and clarinet from Consentino. Bill Bill Broonzy’s Shuffle Rag, has nice harmonica while Hawkins’ evokes Broonzy’s early 1930’s guitar style. The skiffle-jazz band treatment of Rev. Gary Davis’ There Is A Table In Heaven, with trombone and clarinet (and brass bass) provides a fresh take on this performance.

This is an entertaining recording although Hawkins’ guitar perhaps is not as prominent here as on other recordings.

I received a review copy from Ernie Hawkins’ publicist. He is scheduled to open for John Mayall at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia tonight (February 21, 2012).

No comments: