FREE Subscription - For more information  CLICK HERE



Back To Reviews page

The Nighthawks – Damn Good Time

Severn Records

12 tracks; 42.10 minutes

As I set out to listen to the new Nighthawks CD it occurred to me that I have never actually heard one of their records before, so I approached this CD much as I would a debutant band. However, the band has been around since the early 70s and Jimmy Thackery is a well-known former member. Only harp player Mark Wenner remains from the original incarnation though guitarist Paul Bell and bassist Johnny Castle have both put in more than a decade. The newcomer is drummer Mark Stutso who, by circular coincidence, used to drum for… Jimmy Thackery! All of the guys sing and all do a good job. The material is a mixture of classics revisited and originals from within the band and from friends. Mark Stutso contributes four songs, three in collaboration with Norman Nardini. His fourth credit is on a tune composed with bassist Johnny Castle and Aaron Moreland; Castle also contributes one tune himself. Covers include songs made famous by Elvis, Canned Heat and Nat King Cole. This is the band’s first release on Severn and was recorded at the label’s HQ in Annapolis, MD, co-produced by Severn boss David Earl.

Mark Wenner’s harp is the main featured instrument and the template is set out straight away on the opener “Too Much” which Elvis once sang. A driving rhythm and highlight harp are enhanced by strong vocal harmonies. “Who You’re Workin’ For” comes from Billy Price and Glenn Pavone and is an up-tempo rocker with more strong harp. Title track “Damn Good Time” is the collaboration with Aaron Moreland and it is a mid-paced tune with a touch of soul in the arrangement. Johnny Castle’s “Bring Your Sister” brings in a touch of country rock on a really catchy foot-tapper with a twangy guitar solo from Paul Bell.

“Send For Me”, a 1957 hit for Nat King Cole, provides a slow, late night feel with nice guitar embellishments and gentle harp. “Minimum Wage” is the first of three Mark Stutso/Norman Nardini songs, mid-paced with more strong harp and harmonies. “Georgia Slop” is a well-known Jimmy McCracklin tune and has been covered many times and is always fun to hear with the tales of Peg Leg Lee’s bar where the dance is apparently demonstrated! “Night Work” reminded me a lot of Jimmy Thackery in terms of the vocal and guitar style.
Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” is a gem of a song, probably best known from Canned Heat’s version but has also been covered by a host of artists including Bryan Ferry and Roscoe Shelton/Earl Gaines (my personal favorite). The Nighthawks play it pretty straight and their harmonies are an asset on the familiar chorus. Charles E Calhoun’s “Smack Dab In The Middle” may be familiar from versions by Ry Cooder or Roomful Of Blues. I felt that this was one that did not work so well for The Nighthawks, as its stop/start rhythms are more suited to a jump blues or jazz approach. The album closes on two more Stutso/Nardini compositions. “Down To My Last Million Tears” has a strong vocal (I presume Stutso) and is probably as close to a ballad as we get on this album though it is probably better described as a slow rock and roll piece. “Heartbreak Shake” is a good album closer, plenty of twanging guitar, an urgent drum pattern and a catchy chorus.

So, my first Nighthawks experience was a good one. There is variety of pace here though with just the basic quartet there is not as much variety of sound as you might get if there were a wider range of instruments. I imagine that fans of the band will lap up this new effort and their debut on the LRBC next fall should win them some more fans for their feel-good roadhouse style of music.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.

To submit a review or interview please contact:

For more information please contact:


Home  |  Contact  |  Submit Your Blues News - Advertise with Blues Blast Magazine
 Copyright - Blues Blast Magazine
2010    Design by: Moxi Dawg Design