I got a pass for taking HRH to her swimming lessons this evening, so after an episode of ‘Better Call Saul‘ with Tina the Cat, I’m further relaxing with a little bendy-twisty in the basement to ease out my run legs from this afternoon’s pressure cooker fartlek run. Making things even more awesome is that I get to do it with a recent purchase of mine from this past Sunday’s record fair, the self titled album by Ronnie Hawkins.
Originally released in 1959, this is the seminal debut album featuring the dynamic backing back The Hawks, including the 18-year old Levon Helm on skins. The songs were recorded using the current two-track technology in Bell Sound studios, New York, April 1959, with veteran A&R man Joe Reiser at the controls.
Ronnie was originally born in Huntsville, Arkansas in 1935, two days after Elvis Presley. Affectionately known “Mr. Dynamo”, “Sir Ronnie”, ‘The Hawk” and about another dozen or so nicknames, Ronnie emigrated to Canada in 1958 on the recommendation of Conway Twitty who considered Canada as the promised land for a rock and roll singer. Hawkins settled in Hamilton, Ontario after playing at a club called The Grange and just never left; becoming a permanent resident in 1964. The story is largely captured and detailed in Helm’s own book ‘This Wheels On Fire: the Story of the Band‘ I read around this time last year.
Over the years, Hawkins gained a reputation for recruiting and grooming outstanding Canadian talent. The membership of his band, The Hawks, kept changing as the talent flowed in and out, but the name stayed the same. One edition of The Hawks (with Canadians Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and drummer Levon) moved on to become Bob Dylan‘s backup band and later achieved superstardom as The Band. Another version became Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band. Besides Helm, this incarnation of the band features Jimmy Ray “Luke” Paulman (guitar), Willard “Pops” Jones (piano) and Jimmy “Lefty” Evans (bass).
To put it mildy: the album absolutely rips. And how could it not? I mean, just look at how ecstatic Sir Ronnie is on the front cover.
Featured songs here (not to mention Hawkins’ classics) include the pre-Rockabilly ‘Forty Days‘, the swinging ‘Odessa‘, the awesome ‘Mary Lou‘ and ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy‘ which was originally written and recorded by Larry Williams in 1958, but which the Beatles would later go on to record and popularize on their 1965 ‘Help!‘ album. And then there’s ‘Horace‘ which leaves one scratching their head on why Ronnie would ever have thought that this was a good idea at all but, hey, it’s humorous so I’ll leave it alone.
The album is not exactly what one might consider as relaxing “Yoga Music” but, meh, who’s judging? Tina the Cat doesn’t mind and it sure beats wind chimes and whale songs. My downward dog could use a little bounce to work out my tight calf muscles anyway. Sure there are a few snaps, crackles and pops but this is definitely one of those instances where the slight mars enhance the actual listening experience.