Ted Hawkins

Love You Most of All: More Songs from Venice Beach

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Ted Hawkins always resisted being called a blues singer, and a look at his repertoire shows why. While Hawkins' strong but weather-beaten voice could communicate sorrow and heartbreak as few others could, he could also summon up a joyous fire that's a wonder to behold, and he could work this magic with practically any song he chose to perform, from Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" to John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads." Both of those songs appear on Love You Most of All: More Songs From Venice Beach, which (as the title suggests) features 13 songs from the same 1985 bare-bones guitar and voice sessions that produced Hawkins' Songs From Venice Beach, and, like the earlier album, it consists primarily of tunes Hawkins sang while busking for change along the Venice, CA, boardwalk. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" features a striking, hypnotic coda, in which Hawkins chants "so glad I'm a country boy/so glad I'm a country boy" until he's taken Denver's song to a soulful place no one (except possibly Toots Hibbert) could have imagined it going, and Hawkins manages a similar alchemy with such chestnuts as "Green Green Grass of Home," "Your Cheatin' Heart," and even "North to Alaska," as well as more likely Sam Cooke and Otis Redding covers. On this disc's best moments, Hawkins stands beside Arthur Alexander as one of the great unacknowledged links between country and R&B. Unfortunately, the best of the material from these sessions was used on the first album, and the five originals recorded in 1990 that close out the album simply aren't on a par with such Hawkins compositions as "Strange Conversation," "Sorry You're Sick," or "The Good and the Bad." But he never sound less than committed on any of the 18 tunes of Love You Most of All, and anyone who has encountered the heart-tugging power of Ted Hawkins voice knows he never gave a bad performance in front of a microphone -- and this disc preserves more than a few great ones.

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