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Music Review: The Nighthawks – Damn Good Time

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The Nighthawks have been around, in one form or another, for decades. Through it all, they have remained true to their sound, which combines blues,doo-wop, soul, and other American music influences into what is, in fact, always a damn good time, just as the title of their new CD claims.

Damn Good Time is the band’s first effort for Severn Records, and the label must be pleased, because this is as good as it could possibly be, I think.

While Mark Wenner is the only original member, in his 41st year as a Nighthawk, members Paul Bell and Johnny Castle have been with the band for close to a decade. Drummer Mark Stutso paid his dues with the band for two years before making this first appearance on a CD. He sings leads on five songs and was involved in the creation of four, proving his worth handily.

While the Nighthawks meld blues, rock, soul, and more into their music, what they remind me of most is beach music, the sort of songs we listened to in my growing up years when we were at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. This is great, feel good music, perfect for summer days.

The band offers both original tunes and covers. Among the originals, the rollicking, rocking “Bring Your Sister” and “Heartbreak Shake,” “Down to My Last Million Tears,” and soulful “Minimum Wage” are all standout songs, while “Damn Good Time” captures the spirit of the CD perfectly.

As for covers, the band simply takes the songs and makes them their own. Nat King Cole’s “Send For Me,” for instance, gets a great dose of Americana while still staying mellow. The Elvis hit, “Too Much,” returns to its shuffle roots. Jimmy McCracklin’s “Georgia Slop” can start a party all by itself, as can “Smack Dab in the Middle.”

I was thrilled to see Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together,” because while the song has been recorded many times, it is the perfect song for a crowd to sing together and it fits into this CD delightfully.

The other two songs on the CD, “Who You’re Working For,” and “Night Work,” take great advantage of the band’s ability to add a bit of a rough edge to a song without out losing the groove.

Get Damn Good Time. Play it when you’re driving, or partying, or hanging out at the beach. Or play it anytime, pretend you’re doing one of the above, or possibly hanging out in the coolest club ever listening to this really fine band, and you will have, in fact, a very good time.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.
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