Classic Album Review-Hawkshaw Hawkins “Lonesome 7-7203”

Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 player. Today’s Classic Album Review looks back at a compilation release from the late Hawkshaw Hawkins. As you likely know, Hawkshaw perished along with Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline in a plane crash on March 5, 1963. Just a couple of days prior, his latest single had made it’s debut, “Lonesome 7-7203”, and it would become his only number one single. The single was part of a 1962 album release, All New, and thus, it wouldn’t be until this 1969 compilation release by King, that an album by the same title would be on the market.

The title cut kicks off this album. One of the classics of the early 1960’s, simply put; one of my faves. One thing you will notice, here, is the lack of background vocals, which are heard on the original single version. Why that is, I do not know.

“Teardrops On Your Letter” is a very good, unheralded recording that appeared as a posthumous single release in 1964. Kind of slow and a little bluesy, really good track.

A big hit in 1962 was “Silver Threads And Golden Needles”, by Dusty and Tim Springfield, as the Springfields. Not only a big Pop hit, but also crossed over onto the Country 20, as well. Hawkshaw had a version, as well, but failed to chart, with his version. It’s a good piece of early sixties Country-boogie.

Also included is Hawkshaw Hawkin’s version of “Slow Poke”. Released as a single at the end of 1951, it briefly made the top ten, even as Pee Wee King’s version topped the charts. Hawkshaw’s version is completely different, much more instrumentation in the arrangement, and maybe just a tad quicker in tempo. I’ve always liked his version, it’s almost has good as the original.

“A Heartache To Recall” comes from his first tenure with King, recorded in 1951 and with a sound that sounds very similar to Hank Snow records of the time, right down to the same style of steel guitar playing.

Side one ends with another 1964 single release, “Waiting In The Shadows”. A medium-slow tempo piece, it’s decent, nothing spectacular.

“Sunny Side Of The Mountain” was a 1947 release that, despite it’s failure to chart, was always a favorite among Hawkshaw Hawkins fans. Unfortunately, here, you get a pretty lame attempt at updating the original recording, as the original mono version is mixed with drums and a few other instruments, recorded in stereo. The effect is bad, at best. They would have been much better off to have simply used the original recording, here. This same tactic is used on the album’s other mono tracks, but in most cases, it’s so subtle, you almost don’t notice it, certainly doesn’t affect the recordings, much. This is the exception.

“Pickin’ Sweethearts” is another example, and again, overdone on the redubs, though not quite as bad, here. The original parts were recorded and released in 1953; this track actually has a bit of an Eddy Arnold feel to it. In fact, if you listen to Hawkshaw Hawkins really closely, there are certainly comparisons that can be made between his vocal style, and that of Eddy’s, especially his work of that same era.

That Eddy Arnold similarity may not be any more pronounced than on “I Wasted a Nickel”, which was Hawkshaw’s first charting single, peaking at fifteen at the end of 1949. This is a track I’ve always liked, quite a bit, very good track.

“Girl Without A Name” comes from Hawkshaw’s later work with King, in fact, it was the flip-side of his 1962 “Silver Threads And Golden Needles” singles. Good music, right here. Nice beat, and Hawkshaw Hawkins’ vocals on these later recordings are in exceptional form.

From 1951, “Rattlesnakin’ Daddy” is next, a track that has some definite Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams influence to it. Again, the track would be better without the stereo overdubs, but still a good track. This is a song that goes back to at least the 1930’s, if not farther back, having been recorded by some blues artists of the day, notably Blind Boy Fuller.

The album wraps with one more from Hawkshaw Hawkins’ early 1950’s output, “Unwanted”, which was released in 1952. Not anything fancy, just a nice, simple ballad. Again, a track with a distinct Eddy Arnold feel to it.

This album is long out of print, though most, if not all of the tracks can be found, elsewhere. In my search, I did find a few used copies, but they were pricey; in the $20-$40 range.

Overall, the performances by Hawkshaw Hawkins are great, he was simply an underrated vocalist. Perhaps he didn’t have the distinct style that others of his era did, but he did possess a crisp, clean, smooth voice. One that I’ve always liked. I do think “Lonesome 7-7203” loses a little something without the backing vocals, for me, they are such a big part of the record. And the overdubs could have been left off, frankly. Granted, I’ve never been a big fan of most overdubs, more often than not, they add nothing and often detract from the beauty of the originals. Still, good songs and a fine voice are enough to almost completely overcome the overdubs. A 3.5 out of 5, were they all the originals, I’d easily go 4.

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