"Still Wild" after all these years? Despite the title of their new album, the Nighthawks don't sound like they're out to prove anything this time around. Having played bar band blues for nearly 30 years, the quartet seems content to go about business as usual, offering listeners another batch of road-tested blues, soul and rockabilly tunes.
As usual, the cover songs reveal the band's affection for roots music, whether it's the Willie Dixon suggestive novelty "Tiger in Your Tank," Charlie Rich's southern saga "Washed My Hands," Merle Kilgore's Brando-inspired boast "The Wild One" or Muddy Waters's admonishing shuffle "Read Way Back." Several of the original or less familiar tunes, particularly the rockabilly cum blues lament "Guard My Heart," nicely round out the album and allow harmonica ace Mark Wenner and drummer Pete Ragusa to divide the vocal parts that are alternately inspired by Chicago blues and Memphis soul traditions.
On the instrumental front, tasteful guitarist and relative newcomer Pete Kanaras maintains a generally low profile, at least compared with some of his predecessors. The band gets an assist from a few guests -- guitarists Jimmy Nalls and James Solberg, plus keyboardist Darryl Davis -- who complement Wenner's resonating harp and the rhythmic pocket created by Ragusa and bassist Jan Zukowksi. No surprises here, just the Nighthawks' customary barroom brew served straight up.
Appearing Friday at the Vienna Grille and Saturday at Lewie's. To hear a free Sound Bite from the Nighthawks, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8107. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)