Ron Hawkins and the Rusty Nails Crackstatic

One of the main reasons Ron Hawkins probably didn't feel insecure about a Lowest of the Low reunion was that he'd just released his best solo album to date. Crackstatic is a song cycle about acceptance and resistance, buoyed by the presence of love and staring down one's future. Hawkins's tongue is razor-sharp, and in his older age he's sounding a lot more like young Costello. "Terminal City" and "Bite Down Hard" bristle with vicious energy, thanks to his crack band, while "Small Victories" and "Rumours and Whispers" are two haunting ballads that are instant classics. In fact, the rocker/ballad split sounds suspiciously like the Weakerthans' Left and Leaving, and no doubt: both are produced by Ian Blurton, and Hawkins and John K. Samson belong to a mutual admiration society. They're both co-operatively minded, and both express their politics through personal lyrics. "I don't like dogmatic sloganeering," says Hawkins. "With hardcore bands like Propagandhi, I can respect them but it's not the way I like to go about it, because to me it's a bit of a ghetto. I'm a political being and some of that is bound to come out. That way, it's more human politics that come across. I don't like preaching at people, because I've done it in the past and it makes me feel uneasy. In the long run, you can stand there and say 'fuck the man.' But what the Weakerthans are doing and what I'm trying to do by the way we set up our businesses and the way we set up our art that fucks the man in a quiet, profound way, not by screaming at the top of our lungs, but by going about things on our own and making the right choices." (Outside)