Greg Hawks & The Tremblers Fool's Paradise

Let's get things straightened out right off the bat, Hawks is not the strange little dude that used to play keyboards for the Cars; that was Greg Hawkes. This guy, Hawks, is a North Carolina native and used to play in the Two Dollar Pistols, and his backing band, the Tremblers, includes Danny Kurtz, who did time with the Backsliders and Whiskeytown. Hawks and the boys have a lean rootsy sound, and early on in the LP, even when they use twang-y instruments like the mandolin, they keep things rocking straight ahead. The honky tonk is in the attitude, more than the sound. But the deeper they get into the CD, the twangier it gets. Near the midpoint, "Where I'm Not" is a perfect slice of no-bullshit rockin' honky tonk. They offer a dandy version of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than The Rest." With a Latin shuffle beat fused onto it, it's a little more tense and plaintive than the more threatening and deliberate original. Hawks's vocals, a warm, rich baritone, recall George Strait just a little bit. But fear not, there's no major label Nash Vegas slickness to be found anywhere. Part of that credit can no doubt go to ex-dB Chris Stamey and his transparent production. (Yep Roc)