The problem with revival records from oldies artists is that they usually fall into two categories. Either the recordings try meticulously to recapture their old sound with an almost sterile purity, or they shamelessly attempt to update the performer with the new, hot sound of the moment. Thankfully, Dale Hawkins resisted any notion to phone up either Brian Setzer or Puffy Combs.
Recorded and self-produced in his Arkansas studio, Wildcat Tamer is a ramshackle revelation for those who think there isn’t much to know about Hawkins past his classic Creedence hit “Susie Q”. Hawkins’ newest recordings expose many of the influences that spice his musical gumbo. Besides the expected rockabilly, he also dips into some loping western swing on “Summertime Down South” (with the help of fiddler Vassar Clements), as well as the swampy sounds (“Born In Louisiana”) he inspired in CCR. His raw blues takes are particularly surprising: R.L. Burnside’s guitarist, Kenny Brown (whose recent CD was produced by Hawkins), helps songs such as “Take It Home” capture the hypnotic swirl of north Mississippi juke joints.
Much like Revenant Records’ essential Charlie Feathers compilation, Wildcat Tamer shows that rockabilly was really only the commercial sound of the moment for many rural Southern players of Hawkins’ generation. From his days working at Stan Lewis’s record shop in Shreveport to his nights playing with future guitar greats James Burton and Roy Buchanan, Hawkins absorbed all the sounds around him. Decades later, he’s still reflecting the breadth of that experience.