"Ernie Hawkins is an important link in the unbroken chain of blues and gospel artists. His guitar artistry and love of the style is incomparable. From the Rev. Gary Davis into the future with his own style Ernie is one of the special ones!" – Jorma Kaukonen
"Ernie Hawkins has emerged in recent years as the foremost master of Rev. Davis' guitar style." – Acoustic Guitar
For many years Ernie Hawkins has been playing concerts, clubs, festivals, colleges and museums in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. He has played with blues greats such as Son House, Mance Lipscomb, Fred McDowell, Jim Brewer and Rev. Gary Davis. He was born in Pittsburgh in 1947. He first learned country guitar, mandolin, banjo and bones from a man named Pete who worked on his uncle's farm. Pete had played with the Lilly Brothers and had rambled around the country, taking a 30-year detour down whiskey lane that landed him in a cabin on the farm as property caretaker and a primary musical mentor to Ernie.
Ernie was already playing blues as a teenager when he heard a man passing through town play Rev. Gary Davis' Let Us Get Together. He was hooked then and forever on country blues and ragtime guitar players like Davis, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake, Willie Johnson, Skip James, John Hurt and Leadbelly.
After high school, Ernie moved to New York City with only one purpose: to study with Rev. Davis. A few years latter he moved back home and enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh and earned a degree in philosophy. During this time, he played with Niles Jones, a blues player living in the city who was "rediscovered" in the 1990's as Guitar Gabriel.
Ernie's next move was to Dallas, Texas for graduate school and earned a doctorate in phenomenological psychology. There he learned the music of Texas blues players such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Funny Papa Smith, Henry Thomas and Lightnin' Hopkins.
In the early 1980's, Ernie recorded his first solo album of Ragtime guitar, Ragtime Signatures. His second CD, Blues Advice, was dedicated to the memory of his teacher, Rev. Davis, on the occasion of the centennial of his birth. The CD includes three rare songs taught to Hawkins by Davis: Penitentiary Blues, Florida Blues and Will There be Stars In My Crown. The CDs Bluesified, Mean Little Poodle and Rags & Bones followed.
In this DVD Ernie talks about his influences and performs a wide range of blues, ragtime and gospel tunes.
Titles include: What You Gonna Do, Railroad Blues, Chump Man Blues, Rev. Davis Medley, Police Dog Blues, Slow Drag, Fast Fox Trot, Twelve Sticks, Florida Blues, Penitentary Blues, Potato Head Blues, Hawkins Rag, If You Haven't Any Hay Get On Down That Road, Call Up China, Lightnin's Hideaway, Elm Street Blues, Masanga, Riding On A Moonbeam and Blue Belle.
Running Time: 97 minutes
Review: This ninety minute long disc is one in a series from the Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop Inc. stable and others in this highly recommended series include Rory Block and Paul Geremia. In this relaxed session acoustic guitar picker and vocalist Hawkins talks informally about his life and times, as well as performing an intriguing selection of songs and instrumentals.
Sixty-year-old Hawkins has led a fascinating life, leaving school as a teenager and traveling around the USA searching out musicians and material, as well as gaining a university degree. He met and performed with many legendary players including Son House. Fred McDowell, Jim Brower and Mance Lipscomb, but it was the legendary Rev, Gary Davis that had one of the most powerful influences. Hawkins is a highly skilled interpreter of Davis's music and there are a number of his titles here including “Will There Be Stars In My Crown”, “Penitentiary Blues” and “Florida Blues”, three instrumentals that Hawkins learnt direct from Davis which I do not believe Davis ever recorded. (Hawkins has a number of excellent teaching DVDs out including two teaching the music of Rev. Davis, as well as of two well received solo discs - all worth searching out).
There is no doubt that Davis had a tremendous influence on Hawkins but he talks equally enthusiastically and knowledgeably of other musicians including Skip James, Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin' Hopkins, and performs titles from each of them. I particularly enjoyed his interpretation of Louis Armstrong's “Potato Head Blues" and he talks with passion about his interest in African guitar music and includes the beautifully lilting instrumental “Masanga”.
The session is filmed in a simple and tasteful setting with first rate camera work, which guitar players will find very useful, and Hawkins comes over as a highly committed, skilled and experienced musician. This disc I am sure will have a wide appeal and I hope that before very long Hawkins will have a major tour of the UK and I for one would look forward to that with anticipation. – Blues in Britain/Bob Tilling