FREE Subscription - For more information  CLICK HERE



Back To Reviews page

The Nighthawks - Last Train to Bluesville

Rip Bang Records

10 songs, 40:21

Every once in a while, it all comes together. That’s what happened in early 2009, when XM/Sirius blues DJ Bill Wax heard that the Nighthawks were in town and performing some acoustic shows. At his invite, the band showed up at the XM/Sirius studios in downtown DC and proceeded to lay down the tracks, performed live and raw, that became Last Train to Bluesville.

The Nighthawks have been around for decades, formed in 1972 by Mark Wenner and Jimmy Thackery. Over the decades, they’ve toured 49 states and a dozen countries and changed lineups numerous times, all the while working for their dinner and schlepping their own gear.

When I gave Last Train to Bluesville a first listen, those 30-odd years of playing and touring showed through - not in a tired, exhausted sort of way, but as deep experience with the music that seems to come so effortlessly.

The CD is classic old-school acoustic blues delivered with a delightful jam band flavor. Anchored by Mark Wenner’s harp playing and vocals, the band delivers every songs with conviction and true musicianship. The XM/Sirius studios must have a serious set up, because this is one of the most crisp, sweet-sounding discs I’ve ever heard, as though the band is right here in my living room, playing live.

Last Train starts with the classic The Chicken and the Hawk (Up, Up and Away), which was a real treat for me, since I’d only ever heard that song done live by an old local bluesman around my neck of the woods. The upbeat blues ditty showcases the mellow sound of Wenner’s harp, the gentle beat of snare-drum-only percussion and the wonderful yet slightly raw harmonies that are a signature of this set.

The disc features a trio of McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) songs: Nineteen Years Old, Can’t Be Satisfied and Rollin’ and Tumblin’, all standouts with rich, deep slide guitar marrying perfectly with Wenner’s harp. The five minute plus Rollin’ and Tumblin’ is a true tour de force, and reminded me of that great give and take jam in Clapton’s Unplugged on the same song.

Another standout is You Don’t Love Me, an Elis McDaniel (Bo Diddley) composition. Sung by bass player Johnny Castle, it features a great rhythmic give and take between Wenner’s harp and Bell’s guitar and some wonderful lyrical guitar licks under Castle’s vocals.

About the only weak spot on this disc is the title: Last Train to Bluesville (is a trite moniker like that really necessary?). Title aside, this offering serves up ten tracks of incredible acoustic blues, all the more impressive given that it was recorded as a live session in the studio rather than pieced together of tracks and parts. The crystal clear recording would showcase any flaws - instead what comes through is a tight, professional acoustic set that truly showcases the Nighthawks’ musicianship.

If you are an acoustic fan, grab this disc and be prepared to wear it out.

Reviewer Paul Schuytema is a lifelong blues enthusiast who grew up in Chi-town. He cut his blues teeth at shows by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. He now lives in the cornfields and puts on the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival every fall.

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