Sunday, September 27, 2015

J.B. Hutto and the Hawks Squat

The latest classic Delmark blues CD to received an expanded, deluxe treatment is J.B. Hutto & His Hawks, "Hawk Squat." Hawk Squat is perhaps my favorite J.B. Hutto album and one I have been listening to since it was initially released back in the later sixties. Backing J.B. were Sunnyland Slim on keyboards; Herman Haskell on guitar for one track; Lee Jackson on guitar for six songs (8 tracks); Junior Pettis or Dave Myers on bass; Frank Kirkland on drums; and Maurice McIntyre on saxophone for one session. The original twelve tracks are supplemented by one new song and alternates of four selections (one song has two alternates).

J.B. Hutto was an Elmore James disciple, yet only on "Speak Your Mind," does he employ the familiar "Dust My Broom" lick, but in the context of his own song. His forceful vocals and take no prisoner slide guitar are strongly supported by Sunnyland's organ which also provides some additional musical coloring. Their are two alternates to this track, the more interesting one is a slowed down rendition that closes this reissue. In contrast, with  typical Sunnyland Slim piano, "If You Change Your Mind," has Hutto playing  tough slide to support his powerful singing. It should not be lost that J.B.'s was a first-rate songwriter as heard on "Too Much Pride." Here J.B. sings about having too much pride to beg his woman to stay. This is the first track to have McIntyre's saxophone and it is fascinating to listen to how responsive his playing, behind J.B.'s vocals, was.

The declamatory vocal delivery on "Too Much Alcohol" is followed by the slide guitar boogie "Hip Shakin'," and then the "The Feeling is Gone"  about "feeling like crying but the tears would not come down," as his keen slide complements his vocal. They do not simply write or play blues like this anymore. "Hawk Squat" is a raucous number as J.B. introduces everybody who take short solos. It is almost a blues equivalent of Louis Armstrong's "Gut Bucket Blues." "I'll Cry Tomorrow" is the one new selection, and is a slow blues with nice interplay between Hutto and Lee Jackson and followed by the alternate takes.

In addition to the previously unissued material, Bob Koester provides new notes in the accompanying booklet that supplement the original liner notes. The booklet are contains a number of previously unissued photos from Turner's, then J.B. Hutto's home base, and the recording sessions. The original recording was selected for the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013, and the music still resonates strongly over forty-five years after first listening to it. J.B. Hutto's music was direct, not fancy, and full of heart and "Hawk Squat" was one of his finest recordings.

I received my review copy from Delmark and a review appeared in Jazz & Blues Report Issue 361. Here is a clip of J.B. Hutto from the film Chicago Blues.

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