Blues Bytes


June 2015

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J.B. Hutto
Hawk Squat
Delmark Records

JB Hutto

In 1968, Delmark released J.B. Hutto’s Hawk Squat to an unsuspecting world of blues fans. It remains one of the finest examples of the late ’60s Chicago blues sound. The slide guitarist was accompanied by the Windy City keyboard legend Sunnyland Slim, and a band that included Lee Jackson on guitar, Dave Myers, Herman Hassell, and Junior Pettis alternating on bass, Frank Kirkland on drums, and jazz man Maurice McIntyre (who was working at Delmark’s Jazz Record Mart at the time) on tenor sax.

Nearly 50 years after its release, Hawk Squat is still as raw and ragged as it was upon its initial release. The National Blues Foundation agreed wholeheartedly, inducting the album into its Hall of Fame for Classic of Blues Recordings: Album in 2014. Delmark recently made a great album even greater by remastering the original album, adding six previously unissued tracks and expanded liner notes with never-before-photos from the sessions.

For those unfamiliar with Hutto, he was a disciple of slide guitarist Elmore James, perhaps even exceeding James in intensity and energy. His live performances were the stuff of legend, with his flamboyant suits and hats, playing in the crowd, even dancing on tables, his blistering slide work, and his distinctive vocals. He began recording in the mid ’50s, but took a sabbatical of around ten years outside of the business before returning in the mid ’60s and never letting up, right up until his death from cancer in 1983 at age 57.

The 12 tracks that comprised the original album sound great in their re-mastered form, maintaining that “live in the studio” feel. Hutto’s slide playing is a force of nature on tracks like “Speak My Mind,” “20% Alcohol,” the irresistible “Hip Shakin’,” “Notoriety Woman,” and the rocking title track that closes the original release. The previously unreleased tracks include five alternate takes, including two of “Speak My Mind.” There’s also an unissued tune called “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” as close to a ballad as Hutto would get, and he offers up an appropriately soulful vocal.

Though Hutto has been gone for over 30 years, his legacy lives on through the music of his nephew, Lil’ Ed Williams of Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, who carries on not only his music but also bears an uncanny resemblance to his uncle, both in looks and in fashion sense.

If you’re a slide guitar fan, there’s a good chance that you have Hawk Squat in your collection already for the reasons stated in the first couple of paragraphs. However, this “Deluxe Edition” offers up about 20 extra minutes of great music (the alternates are nearly as good as the versions that made the final cut first time around) and the re-mastered sound really adds a lot to the original album’s songs, all of which makes Hawk Squat worth hearing all over again.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog



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