Roadhouse album review: The Nighthawks celebrate 50 hard-rocking years with “Established 1972”

The Nighthawks — “Established 1972” — VizzTone

If The Nighthawks don’t belong in the Roadhouse, I don’t know who does.

This Washington, D.C. band has been bringing its brand of hard-rocking blues and generally house-rocking music for 50 years, and they sound just as tough now as they did a half-century ago.

They’re well-known for their chops as a rugged bar band, with harp-master Mark Wenner up front since the beginning. But they’ve appeared with everyone from Carl Perkins to Muddy Waters, so their sound defies any label beyond great American roots music.

One of the band’s unique qualities is how well the quartet works together. Mark Stutso, drummer; Dan Hovey, guitar; and Paul Pisciotta, bass, all share vocals and kick in their share of words for songwriting on the 14 tracks. The result is a smoothness that comes from years of knowing exactly where each song is going.

This music draws inspiration from everywhere — and it’s always inspired. Hovey’s “Driving” is almost pure acoustic country, his “You Seem Distant” rocks with a message, a cover of Elvis Presley’s version of “Ain’t That Lovin’ You” is tough rockabilly, Stutso created the raucous “Gas Station Chicken,” “Take It Slow” has bluesy Jimmy Reed vibes — and so it goes, with the ‘Hawks soaring on their now almost-timeless tradition of just damn good music.

And they’re still running hard on the road, so if you’re somewhere on the East Coast trail they roam, don’t miss them. If you’re lucky, you might catch them in a sparkling two-fer show with Pittsburgh’s outstanding blue-eyed soul guy, Billy Price.

I’ve been a witness to a bunch of these shows, and I can testify to their unlimited fun power. Can we get some more witnesses?

A brief history of the The Nighthawks

I couldn’t find any video from this album, but here’s a concert video from 2018:

Album Tracklist:
01 – Nobody
02 – You Seem Distant
03 – I’ll Come Running Back To You
04 – Coming And Going
05 – Take It Slow
06 – Johnny Too Bad
07 – Ask Me Nice
08 – West Memphis
09 – Ain’t That Lovin You
10 – Gas Station Chicken
11 – Houseband
12 – Fuss And Fight
13 – Run Red Run
14 – Driving

Roadhouse album review: Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder revisit great old blues with the joyful “Get On Board”

Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder — “Get On Board” — Nonesuch Records

The album cover of the new release, above, with the original from 1952, below. Note the different songs.

Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal have finally created their second album together. Their first was in 1968, when Cooder played on Mahal’s solo debut, “Taj Mahal.”

This time, it’s a joyous tribute to some of their roots, which are deeply embedded in Americana, world music, folk and blues. They’ve re-created (with a few changes) the 1952 “Get On Board” album by the legendary folk-blues duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, purveyors of the classic Piedmont blues style.

They’ve recorded a few of the original songs, but then they dip into the Terry-McGhee catalogue for a fresh selection. This album has more of a joyous house party vibe, with just Taj and Ry holding forth in Cooder’s son Joachim’s house (he added bass and drums.)

Mahal, nearly 80, and Cooder, 75, are seasoned veterans, and they show their age and experience in the best possible way — with a relaxed confidence and exuberance that makes for an album of pure musical enjoyment.

Cooder plays guitar, mandolin and banjo; Mahal plays harp, guitar and piano, while they share the vocals, trading leads and background encouragement. Their enjoyment is contagious. Aside from a few overdubs, each song was done in “just one take, with live vocals”, Cooder says. That live approach makes for great listening.

Their style here is a little tougher than the originals, but just as fine in their own way. And you get the advantage of more modern recording, which, coupled with the living room setting, adds an essential and rewarding spontaneity.

One raucous take is the addition of the delightful, ever-popular, rock ‘n’ roll-flavored “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee,” not incidentally written by Granville Henry “Stick” McGhee, or Stick McGhee, Brownie’s younger brother.

My favorite track is the opener, not on the original, the hard-driving “My Baby Done Changed the Lock on the Door.” But every cut is good old-fashioned blues at its best. Cooder and Mahal are definitely showing their age with the talents it takes to make this kind of exuberant music.

Here’s an interview on “The Making of ‘Get On Board'”

Here’s a video of the song “Hooray Hooray”


Roadhouse album review: Bonnie Raitt is back, and “Just Like That…” stronger than ever

Bonnie Raitt — “Just Like That …” — Redwing Records

I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Raitt since I heard her first album, “Bonnie Raitt,” in 1971, a wonderful pastiche of blues, folk, rock and Raitt’s own musical persona, plus a bunch of her talented friends. (Her eclectic and talented supporting cast, for you blues fans, included A.C. Reed on sax and Junior Wells on harp on several songs.)

But just like that, just a tick over a half-century later, Raitt is still making magical music virtually undimmed by time with her 21st album, “Just Like That …” her first in six years.

This one is also eclectic, drawing strength from Raitt’s four original songs among the ten thoughtfully written and played compositions on this beautifully crafted, self-produced album. If anything, her vocals are stronger than ever, filled with passion and compassion for the subject at hand, whether it’s sweet love or sorrowful loss.

The haunting title track is one of those originals, the story of a woman comforted by the man who received her son’s transplanted heart. It’s a powerful acoustic gem.

The album is filled with songs of love, longing and loss, but it’s never trite or maudlin, thanks to skillful songwriting, and Raitt’s knowledge as a vocalist, finding hope and optimism in the humanity of her outlook. She’s also pulled together a group of her long-time bandmates, who contribute a spare but pulsive backdrop for every mood.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a dark and depressing album. Quite contrary. Raitt has taken thoughtful topics — losses to Covid, for example — and created joyful remembrances. In the hard-rocking “Livin’ for the Ones,” she sings: “I’m livin’ for the ones who didn’t make it, cut down through no fault of their own….” amid the punchy rhythms.

There are some more traditional touches of heartache and heartbreak in tracks like “”Here Comes Love,” “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart, “the album opener “Made Up Mind,” and “Something’s Got Ahold of My Heart.”

Then there’s one of my favorites, the gorgeously torchy “Blame It on Me,” (“Truth is love’s first casualty….”) with what sounds like her signature slide work and one long, pure note she holds near the end that should make your heart ache with pain and pleasure.

This is an outstanding album, 50 years out, full of great songs, music and Raitt’s still compelling vocals.

Enjoy it soon and often.

Here’s a live performance of “Made Up Mind” on the Kelly Clarkson TV show:

Here’s an excellent interview. It’s worth watching.


  1. Made Up Mind
  2. Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart
  3. Livin’ for the Ones
  4. Just Like That
  5. When We Say Goodnight
  6. Waitin’ For You to Blow
  7. Blame it On Me
  8. Love So Strong
  9. Here Comes Love
  10. Down The Hall

Roadhouse Album Review: Trudy Lynn’s blues toughness shines in “Golden Girl”

Trudy Lynn — “Golden Girl” — Nola Blue Records

One word comes to mind when I listen to Trudy Lynn burn her way through her delicious new album, “Golden Girl” — tough. In the best sense of the word.

The crackling band is tough, especially the lead guitar work; the songwriting is tough, and most of all, Lynn’s searing vocals are tough.

All that toughness has been honed by more than 55 years of performing blues and soul, and just possibly by growing through the Houston music scene, part of a larger, tougher, Texas music world.

Lynn’s first recording came in 1973 with Sinett Records single, “Long Live the Blues” and a soul ballad “What A Waste.” Since then, she’s been a thirteen-time Blues Music Award nominee, and received two career-defining awards in 2019: the Living Legend Blues Award from the Houston Blues Society and the Jus’ Blues Music Foundation’s Willie Mitchell Lifetime Artist Award.

She’s also been making a lot of terrific music.

Time and age — she’s coming up on 75 — seem to have made her vocals sound only more full and rich, lending an authenticity that’s better described as the “real deal.” Her name is on seven of the eleven songs here; her writing skills reflect her musical wisdom.

You can feel the “real” from the opening bars of “Tell Me,” the first track here: It’s a fiery intro from guitarist Yates McKendree that trades punches with Lynn’s tough vocals throughout. Then there’s the title track, sort of, “Golden Girl Blues,” with guest axman Anson Funderburgh joining McKendree on guitar and pushing the backers to keep up with Lynn’s vocals on how to “keep on livin'” with the golden girl blues.

The toughness continues with “If Your Phone Don’t Ring” and “I’m Just Saying,” then takes a break for the tender soulfulness of the lovely “Is It Cold In Here.”

Steve Krase’s soulful harp kicks open “Trouble In Love,” which brings back Funderburgh and McKendree, with some nice piano fills by Kevin McKendree, all rocking along into the next track, “Take Me Back,” in which I can hear a subtle reference to some great old R&B with a dollop of doo-wop. (Doo-wop, for you youngsters, was an R&B-related musical style from the late 1940s and ’50s, mostly four or five vocalists who gave the music its nickname by sing a lot of doo-wop, doo-wop, doo-wop rhythms in the background.)

Speaking of oldies, another track, “Heartache Is A One-Way Street,” updates what sounds an awful lot like the Bo Diddley beat. Much fun!

But the closer is my favorite song, musically and philosophically — “Life Goes On.” Funderburgh leans into it with a scorching blues solo, and Lynn puts the torch to it all with power and passion. A great song.

This is a very fine album, packed with good, old-fashioned blues and soul. The excellent musicians here provide a perfect backdrop for Lynn’s majestic vocals. Listen to it a lot. It’s worth every musical minute.

Trudy Lynn sings “Golden Girl Blues”

Tracklist and credits:

Just for fun: Even more toughness in “Tuff Enuff” from the Fabulous Thunderbirds, in 1986.

Blues Roadhouse News: Burnside, Ingram win 2022 blues Grammys

There are just two pure blues categories in the Grammys these days, with sort of related categories in gospel, Americana, roots and folk music. But since this is the BLUES Roadhouse, we’ll just list those two.

Both categories had worthwhile nominees, but it’s hard to disagree with the winners. Both Cedric Burnside and “Kingfish” Ingram produced excellent albums. In a bit of shameless self-promotion, here’s my review of each: Burnside’s “I Be Trying” and Ingram”s “662.”

Videos of their acceptance speeches are below.

And here’s a list of all the Grammys (the page is being updated throughout the evening).

Best Traditional Blues Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental traditional blues recordings.

  • 100 Years Of Blues
    Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite
  • Traveler’s Blues
    Blues Traveler
  • I Be Trying – WINNER
    Cedric Burnside
  • Be Ready When I Call You
    Guy Davis
  • Take Me Back
    Kim Wilson

Best Contemporary Blues Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental contemporary blues recordings.

  • Delta Kream
    The Black Keys Featuring Eric Deaton & Kenny Brown
  • Royal Tea
    Joe Bonamassa
  • Uncivil War
    Shemekia Copeland
  • Fire It Up
    Steve Cropper
  • 662 – WINNER
    Christone “Kingfish” Ingram