Friday, October 24, 2014

FIRST IMPRESSION: Ron Hawkins and the Do Good Assassins - Garden Songs

What started reportedly as a stop-gap EP, Ron Hawkins’s latest with his nimble ensemble the Do Good Assassins has turned into a fruitful reexamination and recasting of a catalog chock-full of overlooked gems.  “Garden Songs” features four newly written songs recorded alongside six reworked “covers” of songs from Hawkins’ estimable catalog.  What’s truly astounding is that despite the wide range of years in between songs (the oldest, “Small Victories”, was first debuted on 1999’s “Return of the Read Menace” compilation and is here given a Waits-ish gypsy swagger), they all feel like part of a larger, singular picture.  Some of this can probably be attributed to the recording process – the album was largely recorded live “off-the-floor” in the studio with the entire band playing together through each take – but much of the credit goes to the remarkable artistry and thematic consistency of Hawkins as a songwriter.  There is a clear and unwavering logline of emotion that runs through songs as sonically disparate as “Peace and Quiet, “Waiting On Something That’s Already Here“ and the devastating album-highlight, “South Ontario” – things fall apart or away and we are left to deal with the fallout. 

And that is how life is, looking back and only finding the worth in something once it’s gone or too far away to be saved.  “Some things are solid gold we thought were only tin”, indeed.  So, it makes sense that these new paeans to life on the margins would sit so comfortably among the other, more “classic” tracks.  And that makes the optimism of a song like “Saskia Arrives” all the more potent. Even at its worst, life has moments of beauty that are able to pierce the darkness.  What could have been a nostalgia trip (or worse, in lesser hands, a cash grab), bleeds vibrancy and stands as yet another monument to the not only Hawkins’ estimable talents as a songwriter but the organic compatibility of the DGA as players and interpreters.  Masterful, emotional, and a welcome addition to the canon!

Also, check back next week for an additional conversation with Ron Hawkins about the creation of "Garden Songs"!

No comments:

Post a Comment