The Nighthawks

American Landscape

Celebrating 37 years of blues and roots rock, this Washington, D.C.-based band’s 22nd recording delivers the goods on both counts. Still fronted by harmonica player Mark Wenner, the band’s obviously gone through some changes over the years. Co-founder/guitarist Jimmy Thackery left after 16 years to go his own prolific way while original drummer Pete Ragusa recently returned to the fold. “New” guys—with five years in the band—are guitarist Paul Bell and bassist Johnny Castle. Still calling themselves a “white boys blues band” (a title they earned in the beginning by concentrating, as did so many others, on Chicago blues) this CD focuses more on the rock side of the musical spectrum, unlike their iconic 1976 LP—Open All Night with its reproduction of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” on the cover—which was all blues. The two blues on offer here are Ike Turner’s “Matchbox” (one of those wondering-if-it-will-hold-my-clothes numbers) set to an invigorating beat and a relaxed “Made Up My Mind” (she’s coming back but he’s made up his mind to leave). Tom Waits’ bluesy “Down in the Hole;” Steve Cropper’s funky “Don’t Turn Your Heater Down;” two by Dylan and the Andy Griffith TV theme (!) reveal the band’s admirable versatility.