Last Train to Bluesville
Blues fans have embraced the Nighthawks as one of the genre’s most authentic exponents for over three decades, during which the band has weathered line-up changes with their earthy sound intact. This live acoustic recording captures drummer/vocalist Pete Ragusa’s final gig with the group — but fun rather than nostalgia is clearly the order of the day. The Nighthawks romp and simmer their way through a well selected set heavy on classic material. Mark Wenner’s soulful harmonica and gruffly expressive lead vocals are nicely matched by Paul Bell’s stinging slide-guitar and Johnny Castle’s throbbing upright bass. The combo cooks up particularly potent versions of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin” as well as an insistent take on Bo Diddley’s “You Don’t Love Me.” Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ In My Heart” is given a note-melting treatment, while “High Temperature” swaggers with jazzy overtones. A special treat is Ragusa’s wailing vocal on James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy.” The entire session feels like an after-hours jam among old friends at some long-lost blues bar.