I've been waiting seemingly forever (actually, ever since I bought a CD player) for Delmark to re-issue Robert Nighthawk's classic United recordings on CD. When my friend delivered the latest batch of CDs to hit our P.O. box, he must have thought I lost my mind when I saw this disc in the stack. I hugged it as if I was greeting a long lost friend.
Those of you already familiar with Robert Nighthawk should understand my passion for this man's music. If you've never heard him, then this disc is the best starting point. These recordings were made in the early 1950s, not long after his Chess/Aristocrat sides. But here Nighthawk's deep Mississippi/Chicago blues have a lighter, jazzier sound than on the Chess and his earlier Bluebird releases (the latter issued under the name Robert Lee McCoy)..
The first cut, "Crying Won't Help You," finds Nighthawk playing some nasty slide guitar and singing in a deep, rich voice. Another Nighthawk classic, the uptempo "Take It Easy Baby," features good piano accompaniment from either Roosevelt Sykes or Bob Call. These two songs alone are alone worth the price of the disc.
The raw and frantic "Maggie Campbell," which Nighthawk recorded at several stages in his career is included. On this version his guitar is tuned to give the strings an inordinate amount of resonance.
The blues doesn't get much better than what you'll hear on the slow "The Moon Is Rising," with Nighthawk's trademark slide guitar sound featured heavily. He's also at his best vocally on this number.
The uptempo instrumental "Nighthawk's Boogie," gives each member of the combo a chance to solo, but it's Nighthawk's guitar runs which steal the show on this jazzy number. The version of "Kansas City" has a similar sound, but now includes Nighthawk's deep, resonant vocals.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Bricks In My Pillow belongs on any serious blues fan's list of essential discs. Now you can set aside that well-worn vinyl copy and go digital.
--- Bill Mitchell
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