Saturday, October 22, 2022

John Hammond And The Nighthawks - Hot Tracks (1979 us, fascinating electric blues)

In September of 1979, John Hammond went into Vanguard Records' 23rd Street Studio in New York with the Nighthawks -- Jimmy Thackery, guitar; Mark Wenner, harmonica; Jan Zukowski, bass; Pete Ragusa, drums -- and cut this record, one of his best (and which might've sold better with maybe some better cover art). 

The sounds are alternately hot and soulful on the ten-song collection, featuring covers of songs by Little Walter ("You Better Watch Yourself," "Last Night"), Chuck Berry ("Nadine"), Jimmy Reed ("Caress Me Baby," one of Hammond's slowest, most seductive numbers), and Robert Johnson ("Sweet Home Chicago"). 

Highlights include a stunningly beautiful rendition of Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talkin'," a wailing reconsideration of John Lee Hooker's "Sugar Mama" with a really searing guitar break, a very powerful version of "Howlin' for My Darling," and even the best cover of Dixon's "Pretty Thing" this side of Bo Diddley himself, where Hammond and company manage to be raunchy and smooth at the same time.
Nothing's going to make anyone forget Walter, Wolf, or Willie, but this isn't a bad way to spend 40 minutes, especially given the really crunchy guitar sound achieved by Jeff Zaraya and the uncredited producer. A real diamond in the rough, and one of Hammond's best albums.
by Bruce Eder
1. Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut (Ellas McDaniel) - 3:20
2. Who's Been Talking (Chester Burnett) - 2:49
3. Sugar Mama (John Lee Hooker) - 3:27
4. Howlin' For My Darlin' (Chester Burnett, Willie Dixon) - 3:29
5. You Better Watch Yourself (Walter Jacobs) - 2:22
6. Pretty Thing (Willie Dixon) - 3:04
7. Caress Me Baby (Jimmy Reed) - 3:58
8. Nadine (Chuck Berry) - 3:47
9. Last Night (Walter Jacobs) - 3:11
10.Sweet Home Chicago (Robert Johnson) - 4:27

*John Hammond - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Jimmy Thackery - Guitar 
*Marc Wenner - Mouth Harp
*Jan Zukowski - Bass
*Pete Ragusa - Drums

1967  John Hammond - I Can Tell (bonus tracks) 
1967  John Hammond, Jr. - Mirrors (2016 remaster)
1968  John Hammond - Sooner Or Later