Tuesday, April 2, 2013 7 Comments
The raspy voice manages to locate a place deep within my being every time I hear it. It is all-encompassing, like a warm embrace on a cold windy night. It evokes joy and sadness in equal measure. It transports me to a place where there is nothing but the music and inevitably leaves me wanting more. The voice I am referring to is Ted Hawkins, and his album The Next Hundred Years. I was introduced to this album by a close friend and fellow music lover over 10 years ago, and it has maintained unequivocal favouritism, enjoying high-rotation on all of my music devices, none more appropriate for these musical stylings as my turntable.
The music on the album speaks for itself with every track serving up a deliciously hearty dish of country soulful blues. And yet, to gain a true appreciation of the lyrical content and musical idiosyncrasies of this late, great musician, it is necessary to know a little about the man who was Ted Hawkins.
Born into abject poverty in Mississippi in 1936, Hawkins formative years gave him the perfect basis for a life of singing the blues….. sent to reform school at the age of 12; given a 3-year prison sentence at the age of 15; and subsequent years spent drifting, stealing and hitchhiking across the country. His musical calling was finally realised in 1966 when he purchased a steel string guitar and a one-way ticket to Los Angeles but his dreams of musical fame were consistently shattered. He took up a residence on the boardwalk of Venice Beach, where he would often be found busking amidst the sand and salty ocean spray, which Hawkins himself attributed to his unique, raspy voice. Attempts to produce a debut album were marred by further jail stints and drug problems, and that album- Watch Your Step was only finally released in 1982 followed by Happy Hour in 1985. Disappointingly, both albums were largely ignored in the US, but garnered critical acclaim in a number of reviews, including Rolling Stone magazine, and received recognition in both Europe and the UK. Despite the fame enjoyed away from his homeland, he was inexorably drawn back to California in the early 90s where he resumed his street performer status. The Next Hundred Years was Hawkins’ first major-label release in 1994. The album brought with it the long-awaiting national recognition and success that Hawkins had dreamed of. Ironically and tragically, Hawkins suffered a stroke only months after the album release, from which he never recovered. He passed away in January 1995 at the age of 58. There have been 7 posthumously released albums.
I regularly listen to the album from cover to cover, but my favourite tracks are undoubtedly: There Stands the Glass with its country twang and lyrics hinting at Hawkin’s own destitute life; Groovy Little Things as a sweet and innocent ode to love; and Green Eyed Girl, whose lyrics I have often imagined being serenaded with, even though my eyes are actually hazel! His cover of John Foggarty’s Long as I Can see the Light is also sublime and in my opinion even better than the original.
Do yourself a favour and if you haven’t heard this album before, go and get yourself a copy. If you have, break it out, dust if off and pump it up!
Ted Hawkins- The Next Hundred Years
Listen to it when: you are sitting by the fire with a glass of red wind in hand
If you like this, you might also like: Otis Redding