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The blues - that is a feeling that makes you feel very bad. The blues'll give you sickness - from there's a pain you've never had. Now here's the way the blues go - it'll jump on you early in the morning. It'll worry you 'til you go to sleep. Then after you fall to sleep, you get to dreamin' them bad old dreams and it give you nothing but the bad old midnight creeps - Lightnin' Hopkins', spoken intro to Blues Is A Feeling

Author Topic: Rags & Bones - Ernie Hawkins  (Read 2545 times)

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Offline GhostRider

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Rags & Bones - Ernie Hawkins
« on: February 22, 2006, 12:38:57 PM »

I just recieved Ernie Hawkins latest CD titled "Rags & Bones" and I thought I'd  put down some of my first impresions.

Now I'm not sure where the Bones part of the title comes from (although there are bones being played on one track, "The Boy was Kissing the Girl"), I sure as heck know where the Rags part comes from. Hawkins on this CD give full voice to the Rev. Gary Davis style "classic" guitar ragtime instrumental tune, putting five of them on plus two others in slightly different styles.

The Davisesque rags are "Make Believe Stunt" (played on a 12-string), "The Boy Was Kissing the Girl", "Potato Head Blues", "Guitar Chop Suey" (these latter two adapted from Louis Armstrong) and "Singing the Blues" (which is actually an instrumental). As well as these Hawkins does a raggy version of RGD's Can't Be Satisfied" (which reminds me of the BBFuller tune "Black and Tan") as well as Mance Lipscomb's "G Rag" (which reminds me of a 16 bar version of Candyman).

All of these are great, complex, very well played and composed guitar instrumentals. Hawkins in these shows his total mastery of the form plus his strong RGD background influence. I have often thought that of all the "famous" RGD ex-students, Hawkins was the one that fell the least far "from the vine".

The remaining tunes:

Avalon Blues
Nice.clean picking with (annoying) bass harmonica and slap-sticks. Hawkins vocal is weak (he sounds strained and doesn't have much range, but he tries). The harmonica sounds like a digerie-doo.

TB Blues
The Jimmie Rodgers one. Great guitar part (one I'd like to learn), monotonic bass. But with a voice like Hawkins, I wouldn't try to yodel.

Texas Easy Street
The Henry Thomas version (in the liner notes the states he "stole this version from Joe LaRose of Ohio"). This is my favorite non-rag tune of the album. Includes slap-sticks and non-annoying harmonica. Hawkins puts forth a very effective blue accompanyment and his best vocal on this CD. Another I'd like to learn.

Statesboro Blues
Strongly patterned off the BWMcTell version, he makes it his own with a repeated chromatic riff. Lots of new ideas to anyone who plays this tune. Hawkins plays quite a straight time, which I think detracts, but who has time like BWMcT. Played on a low tuned 12-string (not my favorite, but let's not get into that again).

Elm Street Blues
A monotonic bluesy tune with a good vocal. Sort of a weird break. Nice.

I Am the Light of the World.
The RGD tune, sung here by Maria Muldaur. Very strongly Davisesque guitar part (surprise?) and whiskey-voiced vocal by Ms. Muldaur. I'm not a fan of gospel tunes, but his duo make a very nice version of this one.

An African-based non-blues, non-rag instrumental. Nicely done but to me out-of-place here.

Overall a guitar tour-de-force CD. Not very "bluesy", but If you are a fan of RGDaviseaque complex ragtime guitar instrumentals, this could be your favorite album of all time. 

And you don't buy an Ernie Hawkins CD for the vocals. Lots of great guitar ideas here. And lots of just good listening.

Pushing "Play" again,


Note: edited to reflect Unkie Bud's ragging on my spelling  :'(
« Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 02:21:12 PM by GhostRider »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Rags & Bones - Ernie Hawkins
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2006, 03:41:28 PM »
I've been listening to this as well and agree mostly with what Alex says. Ernie has a thin, crying style of singing that works well sometimes, less so at other times. I'm not crazy about Statesboro Blues (note the spelling, Alex :P ). I disagree about TB Blues though, as I really enjoy him on this tune. Very laid back, and the yodel part is just relaxed and low-key. Not a full-throated thing, but Jimmie Rodgers (note the spelling, Alex ;P ) wasn't always in full hollerin' yodel mode either. Ernie plays this as a Texas-style blues, with what sounds a little like William Brown-style Mississippi Blues playing tossed in there for good measure.

I'd like to single out Potato Head Blues, which is sort of a classic ragtime arrangement of this Hot Sevens tune, leaning a little more towards jazz in the latter part of the arrangement. It's really wonderful. Worth the price of admission, IMO. "Guitar Chop Suey" is really great as well.

Ernie seems to use less common names for more common Rev. Gary Davis songs. Maybe these alternate names are straight from the Rev? For instance, the complicatedly titled "The Boy Was Kissing the Girl (and Playing the Guitar at the Same Time)" will be more familiar to most people as "Twelve Sticks."  "Can't Be Satisfied" is an A-based song more familiar with vocals as "I'm Throwing Up My Hands" or as an instrumental "Mountain Jack" and others, and yes, Alex, you're correct, it does show up in Fuller's playing in A several times, including "Mamie."


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