Bricks in My Pillow

Bricks in My Pillow

by Robert Nighthawk
     
 

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Robert Nighthawk (aka Robert Lee McCoy) remains one of the most overlooked and underrated of the Delta blues singers and bottleneck slide guitarists. And while he deeply influenced Muddy Waters and Elmore James, Nighthawk never achieved their acclaim. He combines the urbanity of

Overview

Robert Nighthawk (aka Robert Lee McCoy) remains one of the most overlooked and underrated of the Delta blues singers and bottleneck slide guitarists. And while he deeply influenced Muddy Waters and Elmore James, Nighthawk never achieved their acclaim. He combines the urbanity of Lonnie Johnson and Tampa Red, his main influence, with the rawer qualities and deep blues of musicians like Robert Johnson on the harrowing "Crying Won't Help You." One of the first to amplify his guitar, while recording his hit and signature tune "Sweet Black Angel" in 1949 -- the song that B. B. King transformed into an even bigger hit as "Sweet Little Angel" in 1956 -- Nighthawk's recording career was sporadic. BRICKS IN MY PILLOW is his United sessions, including three alternate takes, recorded in 1951-52 after his brief stint with Chess. In his distinctive brawny croon over fluid, looping slide guitar, Nighthawk delivers lyrical songs that are as ominous and pensive as they are emotionally bitter and resigned. The paucity of studio recordings by Nighthawk makes this collection of eerie slow blues like "The Moon is Rising," Tommy Johnson-inspired songs like "Maggie Campbell," and jump tunes like "Take It Easy Baby" a crucial but rare part of any blues collection.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Bruce Eder
This 14-song collection, consisting of tracks recorded on July 12, 1951, and October 25, 1952, completely transforms the landscape where Robert Nighthawk's music is concerned. Up to now, apart from seeking out his prewar, unamplified work as Robert Lee McCoy (or McCullum) on Bluebird or grabbing a few tracks from some Chess reissues, there hasn't been a lot of Robert Nighthawk in one place. Now there are 14 hard-rocking tracks, cut for United Records in Chicago and showing Nighthawk in his prime and loving it, playing a mean slide underneath some boldly provocative singing that could have given Muddy Waters a run for his money. The style is there, and the voice and the guitar are there, so why didn't Nighthawk hit it big? Based on this collection, his style with an electric guitar just wasn't as distinctive as Waters' playing; additionally, he just didn't have Waters' (or Chess songwriter Willie Dixon's) way with a catch phrase -- there are some OK songs here ("Kansas City," "You Missed a Good Man," "Bricks in My Pillow"), but nothing as catchy or instantly memorable as "I Can't Be Satisfied," "Hoochie Coochie Man," or "Got My Mojo Working." A pair of instrumentals, "Nighthawk Boogie" and "U/S Boogie," both driven by Nighthawk's guitar and a romping piano, pretty much make this collection worthwhile and show the man in his peak form. Included on this collection are a pair of previously unissued tracks, an alternate take of "Seventy-Four," and a loud, crunchy, but, alas, unfinished version of "The Moon Is Rising." The sound is surprisingly clean and rich, especially given the 1951-1952 origins of the tapes.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/22/1998
Label:
Delmark
UPC:
0038153071127
catalogNumber:
711
Rank:
69133

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