Nighthawks Return w/New Studio LP


35-year music biz
vets showcase latest lineup.


By Blurt Staff


Hard-twanging blues/roots band The Nighthawks will release
their first studio album in five years, American Landscape, on February 3 via Powerhouse Records. The
new CD marks the studio album debut of the band’s current lineup, in place for
the past five years, with original members Mark Wenner (harmonica, lead vocals)
and Pete Ragusa (drums, vocals) joined by Paul Bell (guitar, vocals) and Johnny
Castle (bass and vocals). American
was produced by The Nighthawks and recorded/mixed at
several studios in the band’s hometown area of Washington, DC.



Since the group formed in 1972 and released its first album
in 1974, The Nighthawks have been one of the hardest working, most consistent
bands of its generation, averaging over 250-275 dates a year and endearing
themselves to audiences all over the world with their blue-collar work ethic
and universal musical appeal. Two ingredients in the band’s sound have remained
constant over the years: the searing blues harp and soulful vocals of Mark
Wenner and the solid, rhythmic drumming and vocals of Pete Ragusa.   



A roots rock band before the term was used to describe its
music, The Nighthawks developed a sound which showcases a talent for combining
the diverse elements that make up the entire roots music palette – blues, rock,
R&B. rockabilly, soul and swing – to create an original form onto the band,
itself. Drawing from a well-spring of talent from the band’s individual
members, adding a dynamic live performance presence that keeps audiences coming
back for more, and projecting a soulfulness and honesty that transcends the
music for a truly visceral experience, The Nighthawks are a unique American
music phenomenon.



That tradition continues on American Landscape, as the “new blood” additions of Bell and Castle meld seamlessly with founding members
Wenner and Ragusa,
to create an even stronger power and energy in The Nighthawks that’s clearly
evident from the driving, bluesy opening track, “Big Boy.” The Nighthawks
continue to mine the American roots songbook on the rest of the album, with
unique covers of music from Lazy Lester (“Made Up My Mind”), Ike Turner
(“Matchbox”), Sam and Dave (“Don’t Turn Your Heater Down”), Marvin Gaye (“Try
It Baby”), Dan Penn (“Standing In the Way”) and Bob Dylan (“She Belongs to Me”
and “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine).” The band also tips its collective
hat to acclaimed writer/director David Simon by dedicating the album to him and
performing the title song of his HBO series, The Wire, “”Down In the Hole,” written by Tom Waits. Over the
years, Simon has been a big supporter of the band and featured them onscreen in
the second season of The Wire,
as well as his NBC series, Homicide:
Life on the Street
, also using The Nighthawks music throughout both
show’s soundtracks. The two original songs on American Landscape are penned by bassist Johnny Castle: the
funky, hook-laden rock of “Where Do You Go” and the
Cajun/Zydeco-flavored-meets-country-blues of “Jana Lea,” guaranteed to get fans
on the dance floor. Continuing the group’s tremendous creativity and
versatility, they close out the new CD with “Fishin’ Hole Theme” from The Andy Griffith Show,
translating the whistle-along to a country blues/swing number that will surely
bring a smile.          



Both Johnny Castle and Paul Bell are no strangers to The
Nighthawks, having played in several side aggregations with band members over
the past several decades.  Johnny Castle also spent a number of years with
Bill Kirchen’s band; and Paul Bell has previously played with Nils Lofgren
(Bruce Springsteen) and Tommy Lepson (Tom Principato). Bell and Castle first appeared on disc as
members of the band three years ago when The Nighthawks released a live CD/DVD
set, Blue Moon in Your Eye: Live at
the Barns at Wolf Trap



Details of a 2009 tour will be released shortly.





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