Ronnie Hawkins may very well be like the North American version of John Mayall. He had many musicians that have played with him over the years. Most moved on to bigger and better things. The most famous may be The Band. They went from playing bars backing up Ronnie to touring with Bob Dylan and selling millions of records on their own. Ronnie had a knack for finding the best talent to back him up. That may be why he ventured back down to his native land in the southern USA and recorded this album. What better place to record than Muscle Shoals. He of course had The Swampers along for the ride, but he also had an amazing harp player in King Biscuit Boy, and none other than Duane Allman on guitar.
One More Night (Bob Dylan) – This song was released by Bob Dylan on his Nashville Skyline album just before Ronnie covered it here. I much prefer Ronnie’s version as his voice suits country more as far as my ears are concerned.
Bitter Green (Gordon Lightfoot) – Gordon Lightfoot is a tough act to cover. He has such an amazing dual mix of great lyrics and gripping vocals, and he was in the zone back in the 60’s. Ronnie does a really commendable job here though, and the backing music is amazing. The drum work added especially sets this one apart from the original. Close on the vocals here and even better sounding backing band.
I May Never Get To Heaven (Buddy Killen & Bill Anderson) – This song has been a country song, a rockabilly song and a Motown song over the years. The most famous version may be Conway Twitty’s version that went to #1 on the country charts in 1979, but this version is pretty great too. It has an almost Elvis like quality that is pretty cool.
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional) – Fitting that a version of this song was played at Duane Allman’s funeral a year after this album was released.
Matchbox (Carl Perkins) – Another Elvis like song done in the great Carl Perkins 50’s style. Ronnie originally recorded this song in 1961, but I prefer this version with Duane’s amazing slide and King Biscuit Boy’s harp.
Little Bird (Jerry Jeff Walker) – I much prefer this version over the original. Better vocals and no guitar twang to be found.
One Too Many Mornings (Bob Dylan) – Great harp work here. Maybe even better than the original and a vocal style that many would find more appealing. The original is great, but so is this one.
Forty Days (Chuck Berry) – Ronnie had been playing this song since the early days of The Hawks. This version has a jumpier version than his earlier versions, and it suits a Chuck Berry cover better.
Down In The Alley (Jesse Stone and The Clovers) – The album cover wrongly credits Solomon Burke (he wrote Down In The Valley). This song was made famous by Elvis on his soundtrack album Spinout, and was featured in the movie of the same name. Very fitting since Ronnie has his Elvis mojo working.
Who Do You Love (Ellis McDaniel) – This song is most famous for either the original Bo Diddley (real name Ellis McDaniel) or George Thorogood version. Those versions are amazing, but this one is really cool as well. Especially the subtle slide guitar work.
Home From The Forest (Gordon Lightfoot) – Another Lightfoot penned song is ok in more books. The harp work is the star for me on this one.
This one is a great album. For fans of old school country, Gordon Lightfoot, Dylan, 50’s rock, 60’s folk, Muscle Shoals, King Biscuit Boy and Duane Allman. It may be an especially lucrative find for fans of Elvis though. Some may feel many of these songs are like unreleased Elvis recordings.
For me there are 2 knocks against this album. First, it is an album with all covers. Second, I feel that Duane Allman was not used correctly here. He should have been able to wail away, even on one song. You can tell he’s there, but it’s like a caged animal or a Ferrari driven in a shopping mall parking lot. Even one original song with King Biscuit Boy harping away and Duane wailing would have made this album much stronger.