Ever youthful, Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins has a new CD out, entitled Still Cruisin'. The exuberance Ronnie puts into each tune, instills a sense of youthful vigor into this CD -- a tie-in between the '50's when he started out, and the present day. Everything about it speaks volumes about the man, his music and a lifetime of making people feel a special magic in their lives. That magic comes from the love Ronnie shares with each and every person he meets. No rock 'n roll pretensions in the man or his music! That's what makes this new Hawkins CD so special … and magical! The vibrancy in the music touches the heartstrings on the opening track "Can't Stop Rockin'" and never lets up right though to the all-time super-cool, super-slidin' "Down In the Alley", which ends off this masterpiece where muse meets Rockabilly God!
Every tune is an excuse to party - evocative of the Hawk, his lifestyle, and his true-to-life image. The first track, "Can't Stop Rockin'", was written by Ronnie's musician/producer son, Robin Hawkins, who produced the CD. It's energy sets the pace for the whole album. Heavy-duty country/rock at its best - as only the Hawk and his great band, the Hawks can pull it off!
"Friendship" is a slow country/rock duet, sung appropriately by Ronnie with decades-old friend and music biz icon Kris Kristofferson. A bevy of beautiful backup singers including Ronnie's daughter, Leah Hawkins, helps to complement the Hawk's magic on this one. A medium tempo country/rock ballad entitled "Blue Moon in My Sign" follows. It features more superb lead vocals by Ronnie, along with angelic background vocal harmonies and sweet guitar riffs. Bazil Donovan from Blue Rodeo supplies the heavy, thumpin' bass lines on this one, along with some consistently tasteful drumming by The Band's Levon Helm, definitely adding substance to the rhythm section.
"Isn't That So" is atmospheric and moody, right from the start. Mindscape images of voodoo witches making magic mojos is easily evoked in the imagination, in this carefully crafted winner. Levon's harp magic, along with splendid instrumental harmonies, are a perfect blend of talent and musical ingenuity. Add to this beautiful concoction, Ronnie's dynamic lead vocals, along with some superb background vocal harmonies - then the whole musical picture is completely conjured up for the listener's pleasure.
"Foolish" is a medium tempo country/rock ballad, featuring Ronnie's thoughtfully sung vocals, Levon's irreplaceable drum beats, and some sweet guitar leads. The background vocals are a fitting complement to Ronnie's vocal laments. "Dangerous" is another moody Hawkins' offering. The Hawk's vivid story-telling gift is put to good use, telling us of "a dangerous man .. he ain't got nothin' to lose." Some incredibly mouthwatering slide guitar and leads, adds to Jerome Godboo's lamenting harp riffs. The background vocals on this one, echo the dangers.
"Five Dollar Fine for Whining" immediately grabbed me in a humorous way, owing to the fact that Ronnie's famous for fining slackers in his band. On the surface, that might seem uncalled for; but the bottom line is that it keeps the band performing and looking their best, and earns Ronnie the respect he deserves. On another level this beer joint classic speaks of raucous good times with wine, women and song. Helping to enliven the fun-loving atmosphere here are Godboo on harp, and Paul Chapman on bass. Background vocal harmonies are courtesy of Kristofferson again; as well as Hawk guitarist Buzz Thompson, and two lovely ladies and long-time Hawks, BJ Cook and Bev D'Angelo. Buzz also played slide and lead guitar and sang background vocals with the Hawks on other tunes on the CD.
"I'm a Lover, Not a Fighter", ("built for speed"), is a swingin', upbeat country/rock winner - guaranteed to get everyone up on the dance floor, (and keep them there.) Ronnie's vocals are humorous in intent. Lyrics like "Rudolf Vaselino", come right out of the Hawkins School of Comedy. The only thing that comes close to Ronnie's way of putting a song across, is his ability to deliver a joke .. or several in a row! Scorching guitar leads on " .. Lover .. ", are complemented by hard drivin' drums, thumpin', pumpin' bass lines, and energetic background vocals.
In regards to Ronnie's infectious and unique sense of humor, ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton, a personal friend of the Hawk, (and fellow Arkansas native), is known to have taken notes while Ronnie was delivering some of his hilarious one-liners at a private dinner with the Hawk and friends, in late Sept. 2002. I wish I'd done the same, when I was backstage at Ronnie's recent CD release party in Hamilton, Ont. Dec. 5, 2002.
"Promise Road" is a hard-drivin' gospel/country/rock ballad, echoing the Southern Baptist Church revival circuit atmosphere. Lots of energy and exuberance in this tune. Ronnie's driving vocals singing "keep 'a rockin', on that promised road", are added to with incredible slide guitar, Hammond B3 wildness, heavy-duty bass and drums; as well as background vocals oozing Hawk devotion from his Hawks. Deep but simply put lyrics like "you can do what you want, or you can do what you're told", speak volumes in a few words, about the Hawk's wisdom, that's kept him on top of the music scene for decades.
Ronnie belts his every-lovin' guts out, singing "If That's What I Get" in this energetic country/rock ditty. This tune has some beautiful slide guitar supplied by ex-Hawk Al Brisco, with terrific vocal harmonies as well. The guitar and bass are rousing, to say the least - guaranteed to get the dance floor swingin' 'n swayin' right from the start! Sean Verreault, guitarist for Wide Mouth Mason came in at a moment's notice to sing some great background vocals on this one, as well as on several other tracks.
Big Sugar's guitarist Gordie Johnson, plays some fabulous riffs on various tunes. Nine of the 11 tracks were recorded at the Hip studio in Kingston, Ont. The other two were recorded at Metalworks in Toronto. Johnny Fay from the Hip, played drums on one tune. "Five Dollar Fine … " was done mostly in Malibu, with the help of famed music producer, David Foster, (himself an ex-Hawk.) The liner notes thank many talented performers and personal friends of Ronnie's, including guitarists Domenic Troiano, Buzz Thompson and Donnie "Mr. Downchild" Walsh; as well as long-time friends, Don Tyson, Reggie Bovaird and President Clinton.
This incredible album by Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, ends off with the fabulous "Down In the Alley". Brisco's slide guitar on this one, really makes it special. Duane Allman's slide guitar work was featured on the original Hawkins recording, decades earlier. Richard Bell (The Band; ex-Hawk/Janis Joplin) and Mike Fonfara (Downchild Blues Band; ex-Lou Reed/Electric Flag) are both incredible keys players, whose indispensable talents on the ivories were very evident and highly enjoyable on Still Cruisin'. The piano riffs on "Down In … " are imaginative, melodic and rousing -- adding energy to Chapman's intoxicatingly throbbing bass lines throughout. Ronnie's ultra smooth, easy-to-take, story-telling delivery on the vocals, is soothing; while adding mega-hit quality status to this last (and my personal favorite) tune on the CD.
All in all, Still Cruisin' is an incredibly enjoyable CD from beginning to end. It is well thought out and put together with good taste and a real zest for fun partying, reflective of the Hawk himself, Ronnie Hawkins!!! Get it! Play it! Enjoy it! Leave it on 'repeat' for hours! That's all I can say. The superb quality of this wonderfully crafted CD speaks for itself.
Artist: Ronnie Hawkins
Label: Hawk Records # 0515
Ronnie Hawkins' Official Website: www.ronniehawkins.com
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