This ain’t Ron Hawkins’ first rodeo.
It isn’t his first band, either, but the double-disc debut from Hawkins’ latest outfit, Do Good Assassins, is infused with the unmistakable go-big-or-go-home ethos that has earned him his dedicated fan base in Western New York and Southern Ontario over his 30 year career.
Hawkins, frontman for the (mostly) disbanded Lowest of the Low, and his latest bandmates have compiled an uncommon set of songs — uncommon because they cross genres and traverse the musical landscape — and have compiled them on a once-sacred but now almost unheard of double album.
To hear Hawkins describe it, “Rome” is woven from strings of decadence and decay. It’s an apt metaphor for a medium that includes some of rock’s greatest offerings: “London Calling,” “Blonde on Blonde” and “Exile on Main Street” to name a few.
Decadent music and a decaying art form. These are places Hawkins knows. And he fully acknowledges walking in to that space, a musician should be wary.
“We called it ‘Rome’ as a double debut disk,” Hawkins said by phone from his home in Toronto. “How ballsy can we be with the first record for this band?”
To be sure there’s no lack of courage in this offering, but after decades spent earning an audience Hawkins figures if it feels right it’s worth the risk. The first disc is all country, very much in the mold of his two most recent solo offerings, “10 Kinds of Lonely” and “Straightjacket Love.” The second disc is the kind of tight and tough rock-and-roll that first garnered attention with Lowest of the Low.
Those loyal fans will get their chance to hear the entire new catalogue, front to back, in back-to-back shows at Mohawk Place in Buffalo Friday and Saturday nights.
“I’ve got enough of a hardcore audience that are really into the songwriting, lyrics, etc., that they’ll give us this set of shows,” he said.
From the opening chord of the rock half of “Rome,” “Sadder Days” — a clever play on Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” — Hawkins’ longtime fans will feel like they’ve slid into the corner stool at their favorite old watering hole for a good long chat with an old friend.
But there’s not just nostalgia here. These are new songs and the vocal interplay between Hawkins and guitarist and contributing songwriter Steve Singh (Hawkins: “It seems like I always have to have another guy in the band named Steve playing guitar and writing songs”) makes perfect sense.
That fresh inspiration is evident in the writing. The harmonies jump and Hawkins’ raspy delivery meshes delicately with Singh’s smoother, prettier sound.
Hawkins said the opportunity to work with a new collaborator gave the album its juice.
“The whole idea inspired the hell out of me,” he said. “I was writing like a madman.”
Rock track “Home Sweet Home,” described as an irreverent ode to “friends (whose deaths) I would chalk up to the rock and roll lifestyles taking their toll,” closes with a classic Hawkins dart: “It takes a village to raise a child/Takes a city to bury it alive.”
The country half of “Rome” takes a mournful tone at times, offering reflections in verse and a stripped bare presentation that floats from song to song at times so slight it’s a wonder how these are songs at all. But they are, and they’re good ones.
The title track “Rome” closes the country side and sums up where The Do Good Assassins are headed:
“Through the long nights of ruin/To the mornings made of gold/We rise and we fall that way in Rome.”
Decadence. Decay. Reset and repeat. If “Rome” is where Hawkins is headed, it’s very much worth the trip.
This ain’t Ron Hawkins’ first rodeo.
- Some weird and wonderful gift ideas Tis the season that all the newsrooms around the nation are getting inundated with a flurry of press releases offering great gift ideas.
- What to get the book-lover on your holiday list But here's a great suggestion: books! Books are cost-effective. They're like taking a trip without going anywhere. They give and give again, and they're share-able. What more could you want to give?
- DOUBLE TROUBLE: The awesome power of words -- sort of I'm sure this comes as no surprise -- look at what I do for a living, after all -- but I'm a firm believer in the power of words. Their power to illuminate. To make people feel. To make them think.
- BOOK NOOK: Brooklyn's Commonplace Books is an indie publishing start-up, with a couple of novels now distributed. By the looks of their website, they seem to be doing moderately well with sales. However, it is from a more unlikely source that the press has found the majority of its fame - their creepy, spine-tingling, fun-for-all-ages podcast, "Welcome to Night Vale."
- SIMPLY GLUTEN-FREE: Try these kid-friendly gluten-free tips This recipe for gluten free crispy chicken wings uses many of these tips. Choose a gluten-free barbecue sauce that is not too spicy for the kids and I think you will find this recipe is a winner for everyone.
- Idioms highlighted at Project 308's first photo exhibit In more than a year of operation at the small gallery space on Oliver Street, the Project 308 Gallery hasn't played host to solo exhibit entirely comprised of photographs. All of that will change Friday when Buffalo State College photography student Kristen Snyder takes over the gallery's walls with 20 of her "quirky," perhaps humorous, photographs are part of her senior thesis show, "Don't Take Things So Literally."
- MUSIC NOTES: The day Lennon died not to be forgotten
- PINSPIRED: Don't eat the yellow snow (dough) Cloud dough is a Pinterest favorite. I see it a lot in the "kids" category, in every scent from "cotton candy" to "eucalyptus" (really), purporting to be like the commercial Moon Dough, but cheaper and easy to make at home.
- Three local nurses share memories of nursing school. They'll never forget nursing school. They consider themselves lucky to have survived it.â€©â€©But, they have always delighted in remembering the stories, such as struggling to give a bed bath to an unresponsive patient who, it turned out, had already died. Then there was the cadaver dropped by several young nurses-to-be as they tried to carry it down stairs during a power outage. Then there was the problem with the mislaid girdle ...
- FIT FOR LIFE: Strategies to help avoid common holiday pitfalls During the last month of the year it's easy to fall victim to the sweet treats and rich, fatty foods made available to celebrate the upcoming holidays. Here are some ideas on how to avoid putting on the pounds this season:
- More Features Headlines