Washington's Nighthawks start converting the Bayou into the Blues Bayou tonight when the 10-year-old rock and blues quartet opens a five-night run, the first four nights of which are being recorded for a live album due out in May. This will be the second all-live album for the Hawks (the first, "Live at the Psyche Delly," is still available on the local Adelphi label). Live Hawks cuts also appear on their "Kings and Jacks" album and the out-of-print collector's item "Direct Current" (with Root Boy Slim, Catfish Hodge, Bill Holland and Powerhouse).

"We recorded an album for Mercury, which they decided they didn't want to put out," says harp player Mark Wenner. "In a way, we've recorded this album one time already in the studio, a year ago. Since then, we've played the all-original material live many times, combing through it with a very fine comb. Now it feels and sounds like Hawks material."

Many fans believe the Nighthawks have been intimidated by the studio process, and Wenner admits that, even after eight albums, "we still find the studio challenging. Though I feel we're getting there, we haven't mastered it. In a lot of ways, recording the shows at the Bayou is putting our best foot forward -- especially if we can capture that same material live." The band, which is constantly on the road, will be recording everything, including its classic blues-based material, so there might be a follow-up album of older material, too.

Bill McCullough from Track Recorders and longtime soundman Bosco "Glenn" Kern will be at the boards of the recording truck, trying to coordinate a live mix, running mix and 16-track mix. "We're going to be doing three sets, no opening acts, gonna jam it up," Wenner says. "We hope the dance floor will be opened up to try and capture some of the general flow and ambiance of the old days." Watch out for the Blue Wave.