I have had the pleasure of seeing Ernie Hawkins perform a number of times over the years. He is a terrific blues guitarist and singer and among those who was influenced bib the great Reverend Gary Davis. I reviewed his album Bluesified back in early 2001 for the DC Blues Society newsletter and Ernie provided the review copy. At the time when he was touring with Maria Muldaur. Here is that review, with some minor changes.
Fingerstyle blues artist Ernie Hawkins has a delightful new album, Bluesified on SayMo Music. A student of Rev. Gary Davis, Hawkins also acknowledges Blind Willie McTell as a major influence. There are several gospel numbers mixed in with his blues and rag numbers which he plays and sings with charm and grace. Rev. Davis would be proud listening to Hawkins nicely executed rendition of Davis Slow Drag, along with a couple of Davis gospel tunes, one of which, I Belong to the Band, has a moving guest vocal from Maria Muldaur.
The title track is an acoustic small group number which seems to be based on the Walkin’ Blues melody with nice harmonica from Marc Reisman and bottleneck guitar from Hawkins. Lou Schreiber adds clarinet to two tracks, Riding on a Moonbeam, which is based on an African number, and Root Hog or Die, an old Harlem Hamfats number on which the clarinet and the almost marchlike rhythm section recast the song with a klezmer flavor.
His eclecticism in his sources is displayed on his heartfelt reworking of Merle Travis sacred song, I Am a Pilgrim, as well as Hawkins Rag, that derives from a song by Ted Hawkins, mandolin player for the classic string band, Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers. His indebtedness to Blind Willie McTell is heard on a fine rendition of McTell’s Broke Down Engine (with nice bottleneck guitar), and the concluding medley of Amazing Grace with three McTell numbers. If not a great singer, Hawkins natural and unforced delivery delivers lyrics with warmth and conviction.
Bluesified is a release that fans of acoustic blues will want to check out. I have also heard his Blues Advice, and Rags & Bones, both of which I recommend strongly. I have not heard his most recent record, Whinin' Boy. You can contact Ernie directly at: Ernie Hawkins, 6941 Blenheim Court, Pittsburgh PA 15208. His website www.erniehawkins.com has information on this and Ernie’s other recordings and his many instructional videos in blues and ragtime guitar styles. Better stores will be carrying this as well.
Ernie Hawkins is appearing in Washington, DC area on February 21, opening for John Mayall at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. Here is Ernie teaching a Reverend Gary Davis number.