Document Records - Vintage Blues and Jazz

Dirty Linen review of Prowling With The Nighthawk

Over the decades, many blues musicians have generated enourmous attention and devotion. Certainly, there's been ample oppurtunity to enjoy and treasure the work of such notables as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Little Walter, and boy, the list goes on. But somehow Robert Nighthawk has largely been overlooked, not by blues enthusiasts, but by most others.

He was a dynamite electric blues guitarist, and a darn good vocalist, and he wrote much of his own material, too. Now, everyone finally has a chance to catch up and appreciate the output of this criminally overlooked bluesman.

This is the first major review of material recorded over a 15-year span during which Nighthawk, originally named McCoy, worked for several different labels. In fact, his itinerent compulsion was probably what prevented him from gaining wider recognition, even though he was a contemporary of so many well-known blues greats during the mid part of the 20th century. History aside, he burns up the house on track after track on this wonderfully annotated 26-song collection.

His signature tune, "Prowling Nighthawk", is here, and it's a joy to behold, as he helps bridge the gap between the acoustic Delta blues of the 1940's to the electrified Chicago sound that became prominent in the 1950's.

Nighthawk's development also takes us to the point where a rock sound emerges. The guy was so good that many of the tracks here feature major names who admired his talent, including Willie Dixon, Roosevelt Sykes, Sonny Boy (Rice Miller) Williamson, and Pinetop Perkins.

It's long been rumoured that he even taught Muddy Waters how to play slide guitar. Fact or fiction, there's no disputing that Nighthawk was a wonderful bluesman whose output can now finally be appreciated. And the liner notes are great, too.

Ed Silverman (Milburn, NJ), Dirty Linen Magazine

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