Title: Hawk Squat
Artist: J.B. Hutto & His Hawks
Formats: CD (Deluxe ed.), MP3
Release date: April 14, 2015
In the mid 1960s Joseph Benjamin (J.B.) Hutto played three nights a week at Turner’s Lounge, a rough blues bar at the corner of 39th and Indiana on Chicago’s South Side. Delmark Records founder Bob Koester describes the place in his booklet forward for this new deluxe reissue of one of his label’s modern blues classics: “Fifty cents would gain you entry and a beer. Not having that dollar charge at the door made Turner’s rowdier than other clubs.” When Koester and his wife, Sue, first heard Hutto in “’62 or ’63,” the guitarist/singer “lived in Harvey (Illinois) and took public transportation to and from Turner’s Lounge. And he got $5 a night.”
Starting in 1966, Koester tried to capture the raw power of a live Hutto show for a Delmark studio album. A session recorded at Mother Blues club after hours netted one song on this album, “Hip Shakin,'” which gained enough traction as a single to get Hutto and his band booked on a small West Coast tour. But, Koester wrote in his original LP liner notes, drummer Frank Kirkland came down with tuberculosis. When he recovered, Hutto “caught a serious case of pneumonia.” The end result was that Koester couldn’t get the band back into the studio until 1968. A May session at Sound Studio and an August session at Chess-owned Ter-Mar Studio netted enough tracks for a classic electric blues album.
Hawk Squat is one of three Delmark albums from the ‘60s now inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame. The others are Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues and Magic Sam’s West Side Soul. For this deluxe reissue of Hutto’s album, Delmark included 6 extra tracks—the previously-unreleased “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” from the Ter-Mar session plus alternate takes of five tunes on the original album.
Hutto was a slide guitar powerhouse. Like Hound Dog Taylor, he was influenced by Elmore James and Muddy Waters. His blues was the kind of faster, louder, grittier electric music that appealed to a younger urban crowd in the ‘60s, and ended up being the dominant strain of the 1990s “blues revival.” Koester created an interesting and varied album by paring Hutto and Kirkland with keyboardist Sunnyland Slim and different bassists at each session. For the Ter-Mar session, Lee Jackson was added on rhythm guitar, Junior Pettis played bass and Sunnyland Slim mostly played electric organ. For the Sound Studio session, Dave Myers played bass and Koester added tenor saxman Maurice McIntyre, an avant garde jazz player who worked days at Koester’s Jazz Record Mart.
Musically, this album falls somewhere between the rough-edged raw energy of Hound Dog Taylor’s classic live album Beware of the Dog and the polished talent of a late ‘60s Muddy Waters outing. There’s a ton of blues power, but listen carefully to just how well Hutto, Sunnyland Slim, McIntyre and the rhythm section play together. They never let their enthusiasm and passion make them un-tight. That’s why the album is a classic.
Reviewed by Tom Fine