Rags & Bones Reviews



All reviews are edited.

Chris Rietz Elderly Instruments
I can tell from Rags & Bones that you are sounding better than ever. Your version of Massanga moves me to tears.

Dirty Linen
There’s something naturally gritty in the blues playing of Ernie Hawkins. His evocative, soft-spoken vocals meld wonderfully with his syncopated hypnotic and melodic playing. His playing stands out in gutsy remakes of classics like “Statesboro Blues”. Hawkins is fast becoming a classic all his own.

Pittsburgh's acoustic blues guitar finger-picking wizard Ernie Hawkins has not released many albums over the years, which makes this recent, delightful project all the more welcome. Music with the comfortable feeling of a favorite pair of old shoes, expertly recorded and awash with virtuosity.

Blues Revue
There's something joyous about the way Ernie Hawkins approaches a classic 12-string on "Make Believe Stunt", the opening track of his invigorating new release. A deft technician, Hawkins finds something different each time he returns to a musical theme, adding a layer of color and then taking it away with dazzling fluidity. So successful is Hawkins that he almost makes it look easy, even as his fleet-fingered playing assures us it's not.
Hawkins doesn't so much play the guitar as caress it, urging forth in gentle waves of conversation. In a musical climate that seems increasingly narrow and impersonal, it's refreshing to encounter a release guided solely by principles of artistic conviction.

Living Blues Robert Tilling (Rev. Gary Davis biographer)
The opening title, Make Believe Stunt, performed on a richly toned twelve-string guitar, is one of Davis' most complex ragtime instrumentals, and Hawkins handles it with authority. The even more complex The Boy was Kissing The Girl, includes jaunty bones from Guy Gillette. Hawkins captures the spirit of the original while adding his own sound. On the final Davis title I am the Light of This World, Hawkins is joined by vocalist Maria Muldaur making this classic gospel song one of the finest moments of the set.
Particularly enjoyable are the Louis Armstrong instrumental titles Potato Head Blues and Guitar Chop Suey. Hawkins version of Mississippi John Hurt's Avalon Blues is delicate, uncluttered, and enhanced by lilting harmonica from Marc Riesman and controlled percussion from George Heid. His imaginative interpretation of the Jimmie Rodgers classic title TB Blues is aided by understated vocals. A highly recommended disc.

Gary Miller
Ernie Hawkins represents the very best in musicianship. His relentless study of the true American art of finger picking, be it Piedmont, Texas blues and gospel, Delta or any other style, Hawkins has achieved a high point in his career with this CD. After three terrific CDs of his own, plus five DVDs teaching the style of Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Willie McTell, Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, Ernie Hawkins has topped himself.
This CD will not surprise old fans of Hawkins, except that it is his best yet! It will delight anyone with a guitar in his hand, and probably intimidate most who think they know how to fingerpick at all. Yet, with all its studious, precise and magical intricacy, Rags & Bones will take you away to places and times far, far away. Its shear intricacy never interferes with that feeling that this is how guitar should be played. It's never pounding or self-indulgent-played only with real study and exacting effort that seems effortless. From Louis Armstrong to Gary Davis, from Jimmie Rodgers to Mississippi John Hurt, the selection of obscure tunes never fails to surprise even the hard-core purists among fans of Blues.

Rags & Bones is the real thing, something that must be heard by Blues fans and Americana lovers alike. Accompanying Hawkins here is Maria Muldaur on "I Am The Light OF This World", George Heid on percussion, Marc Riesman on harp and Guy Gillette playing Bones. Well thought out arrangements lets these artists chime in with some monumental talent. Each perfect tune resonates with complexity, yet frees up the laid-back in the listener. You will have this on the player all day and night. It's like silk all over your skin. Lovely, Lovely! Get it!

Minor 7th Rare is the player who combines a note-for-note emulation of past masters with a passion that's at least equal to the original artist. Ernie Hawkins ably manages both with a down-home naturalness that belies his formidable and surehanded skill. He re-sculpts the sounds and emotions of the past while losing none of their urgency. In a word, he's a treasure.
I get such a thrill when a CD like this comes along, a man, a guitar, a friend or two and some old style pick that really dazzles. Thanks Ernie for a CD that is a standout and such a pleasure.

Atlanta Blues Society Pat Kreeft
For a guy from Pittsburgh Ernie Hawkins sure knows Piedmont blues. Rags & Bones is Ernie's latest album and I think his best so far. This one is the perfect showcase for Ernie's guitar artistry. Ernie's Piedmont style picking takes you back to the good old days and reminds me of a time when you could lie in the grass and doze with the sun on your face.
For pure Piedmont blues played as honestly as anything I've heard, go get this CD and sit back and relax.

Blues Matters Steve Nicholson
Ernie Hawkins' music represents the very best in finger picking guitar playing. "Rags & Bones" has been hailed as his finest work to date, and will delight and inspire any guitar players.

The Domion Post Morgantown WV Michelle Wolford
Ernie Hawkins has done it again. The master of Piedmont blues has topped all previous efforts with his fifth CD "R&B". I can tell you that he just keeps on getting better. His picking on this CD is as good as it's ever been and his choice of songs is flawless. Hawkins isn't a songwriter. He's a player and a craftsman. A lot of the songs are songs long forgotten, songs Hawkins brings back to life with his soulful, as-devoted-as-a-true-student-could-be guitar. This is an artist, folks.

Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association Mark Smith
On this terrific slice of Piedmont style country blues guitarist Ernie Hawkins draws from a rich stock of tunes by the likes of the Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Willie McTell and Mance Lipscomb. While these pioneers are pretty obvious sources of material, Hawkins throws in some well placed curve balls with a couple of Louis Armstrong tunes (Potato Head Blues and Guitar Chop Suey) which, in his able hands sound like they were always intended for a country guitar rather than a jazz band. Overall, another fine release from one of the top practitioners of country blues guitar.

Indiana Blues Monthly George Fish
Acoustic blues guitarist Ernie Hawkins is regarded as one of the most accomplished exponents of the Texas and Piedmont guitar styles, and his new CD, Rags & Bones, establishes that very, very well. Hawkins sings the blues as well, in soft insidiously understated vocals that sneak up and grab the listener unawares, until after the fact, of the deeply soulful expression without verbal histrionics that lurks within. As he so evidently demonstrates on Rags and Bones, his mastery of arrangements extends to proficient adaptations for acoustic guitar the compositions of others who didn't do these numbers originally on guitar.

Blues Bytes Graham Clarke

Ernie Hawkins is a master guitarist, specializing in Pre-War East Coast Piedmont and Texas steel-string fingerpicking styles. ... a finely crafted collection of tunes composed by others many years ago, but given new life by Hawkins' exquisite fret work. While some guitarists' interpretations of their heroes' compositions come off as rather lifeless in comparison with the originals, this is not the case with Hawkins' approach. His interpretations are faithful to the originals, but the fire and passion Hawkins brings to each song gives them a renewed freshness.

Vintage Guitar John Heidt
Fingerstylist Ernie Hawkins is one of the great joys of guitar. Mentored by the Reverend Gary Davis, he's also one of the folks keeping this stuff alive, and what you get here is, as promised by the title, served up well.
This serving of country-blues heaven opens with a couple of cuts that define much of what Hawkins is about. "Make Believe Stunt" is 12-string magic where Hawkins wraps himself around the Davis instrumental, making it personal and heartfelt. That's followed closely by a marvelous take on Mississippi John Hurt's "Avalon Blues". Yes, the song has been done to death, but Hawkins (on guitar and vocals) and Marc Riesman (harp) breathe life back into this warhorse. Hawkins throws a few curves you may not expect, his take on the Jimmie Rodgers classic "TB Blues" is a marvel; check out his playing of the melody, chords, and the constant bass. It's a lesson for pickers everywhere. Oh yeah, nice yodeling, too!
"I am the Light of This World" gets a vocal assist from Maria Muldaur, who has never sounded better. Her voice and Hawkins' guitar prove the perfect complement for each other.
Hawkins has carved a niche being one of the few guys who still understands this stuff. Hopefully, he'll keep the tradition alive long enough for another generation to latch on.

Blues Wax, Boston Blues News Art Tipaldi senior writer Blues Revue
Though Ernie Hawkins is an unfamiliar name to many blues fans, his music, and more than 35 years of dedication, is a life commitment to be acknowledged. His instructional videos on the guitar styles of McTell, Davis, Hopkins and Lipscomb are a must for any guitar player from beginner to advanced. Hawkins' delightful cover of MIssissippi John Hurt's "Avalon Blues" is a must-listen. This was the song that led researchers to Hurt in the early 1960's. With his expert guitar work on display on so many different styles of acoustic music, Ernie proves again just how rich early American music is.

Allegheny Mountain Radio The Hawkins disc is fabulous!

Peter Barryman
This CD is beyond spectacular. How on earth did you do it? If this thing had frooves, I'd wear them out!

Cliff Brown
I expect something great every time Ernie picks up a guitar, but the new recording is really special. Rags & Bones is inspiring and beautiful. I can't imagine anyone better capturing the nuances of Rev. Davis' playing.

Bruce Iglauer Alligator Records
As I anticipated, the entire album is done in really good tast, with restraint and respect for the tradition. ...your playing is often really gorgeous and always enjoyable.

Fingerstyle Guitar
Ernie is not only a master of acoustic blues guitar but a vocalist as well. His rendition of Jimmy Rodgers' "TB Blues" is alone worthy of the purchase. We found Louis Armstrong's "Potato Head Blues" and "Guitar Chop Suey" ro be real highlights for us fingerpickers. Ernie is certainly an artist to watch.




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