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.
More than rides & food
When the Niagara County Fair opens Wednesday, hundreds of people will enter the county fairgrounds in Lockport for the first of five days of exhibits, shows, rides and food.
But what not all of the visitors may realize is that much of this summer tradition is the result of months of hard work by 4-H Club members and their leaders and families, all focused on the words of the 4-H motto: “Learn By Doing.”
COLUMN: Behind the tattoo gun
Tattoos can be a touchy subject. Of course, people have heard they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; still, people continue to report being denied jobs and being judged harshly for proudly displaying their ink.
CRIB NOTES: No matter what, the kids just want to play the game
At 35 years old, I may be the oldest person ever to record an out in a kids’ T-ball league.
CRITTER COMPANIONS: Visiting the neighbors
This past week, our lovely neighbors went to the beach for their annual weeklong vacation.
Stop and smell the flowers
More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).
For the love of nature
Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.
"I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.
Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.
Getting some fresh air
As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.
“They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”
Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts
I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.
Calling all the basic locavores!
Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.
A closer look at NT
When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.
Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)
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