Ted Hawkins,
The Next Hundred Years
(Geffen, 1994)

Some albums are worth owning because they have one absolutely perfect song. It doesn't matter whether we like anything else on the album or not. That one song makes it worth while.

The first time I heard Ted Hawkins' version of "Long as I Can See the Light," I was completely mesmerized. I was driving home from work, listening to the Blue Monday program on the WETS-FM in Johnson City, Tennessee. I was riveted by that voice -- warm, deep and slightly raspy, and absolutely true and convincing. You could bank on that voice "coming home soon." I had never heard of Ted Hawkins before, but I had to have a recording of that song.

After listening to The Next Hundred Years, I decided that, yes, it's a nice CD, and definitely worth owning for just that one song, which still grabs me every time I hear it. It took me a quite a while to realize how good the rest of the album is.

During his life, Hawkins was an obscure soul singer in the Sam Cooke and Otis Redding mold, but with deep country roots. These roots are most apparent in the honky-tonk standard "There Stands the Glass." When Hawkins sings the line "it's my first one today," we know that it definitely won't be the last. Hawkin's down-right, concrete delivery is the result of a life lived hard: he played his guitar and sang on the street in Venice Beach, California, before he was finally "discovered." And in true blues/soul-singer style, he died just after he had finally landed a recording contract with a major label.

Hawkins wrote seven of the songs on this album, all of them sad and soulful, with strong rural Southern underpinnings. Five of them are songs of love. The best, "The Good and the Bad," gives an achingly unsentimental, matter-of-fact assessment of the desolation of love gone wrong:

Talking is bad
When there's no one to talk to
Dying is good
When the one you love grows tired of you.

Those of us who've passed the age of 40 and suspect that life just isn't going to be long enough to do everything we want to do can relate to the undertone urgency in "Big Things."

Gotta hurry
Just ain't no time left
That's why I'm running so hard.

Straightforward, urgent and without a trace of self pity. Rhythm and blues at its best.

It's Hawkins powerful singing that makes this CD worth listening to again and again. The instrumentation is subtle and supportive, and doesn't get in the way. When you listen to this album save the best cut for last, that's my advice.

[ by Janice Snapp ]
Rambles: 13 July 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.