Consummate road warriors The Nighthawks, led by lifer Mark Wenner, may well be the ultimate bar band. Their good-time blend of blues, soul, and rock 'n' roll is a ready-made roadhouse party, a righteously raucous celebration of rootsy Americana.
Kicking things off with the rollicking "Walk That Walk," the 'Hawks cruise through the blues (original "Livin' The Blues," "Nothin' But The Blues," and the Muddy Waters' classic "Louisiana Blues," all featuring Wenner's exemplary harp), and rip things up with some rowdy rockabilly ("444 A.M.," hence the disc's title, and "Lot Of Livin,"). Also in the mix are the swampy "Crawfish" and the spooky "High Snakes," the crunchy rock of "Price Of Love," slinky Memphis soul ("You're Gone"), and a bit of Stones-style country with "Honky Tonk Queen." There's even a bit of country-gospel in the somber, acoustic "Roadside Cross," featuring a guest appearance by Akira Otsuka on mandolin that ends proceedings on a cautionary note.
Wenner's squalling harmonica leads the way, with versatile guitarist Paul Bell finding just the right tone and attack regardless of the groove. Drummer Mark Stutso (the 'new kid,' having been with the band for a 'mere' five years) and bassist Johnny Castle provide the raw punch to keep the rhythms irresistibly propulsive, a hallmark of the 'Hawks sound for over forty years. Wenner, the band's best singer, handles the bulk of the vocals with gruff aplomb, but everyone gets a turn at the mike and the variety only adds to the atmosphere.
After all these years, the Nighthawks continue to produce music bursting with exuberant energy and infectious vitality, rescuing forgotten gems, breathing new life into classics, and adding to the canon with catchy and contagious originals. 444 (their debut on the excellent indie label, Ellersoul Records), stands among the band's finest.
This one's a keeper!