Born into a life of poverty, Ted Hawkins spent years as a nomad, landing in and out of jail and busking for spare change on Venice Beach before a four-year run with success in England that died away when he returned to the U.S. His music, while certainly not the blues, bristles with the emotionalism associated with that genre. Possessed of a remarkable voice evocative of a grittier Sam Cooke, Hawkins gorgeously blends an unusual twirl of pop and country and laces it with emotions that run from elegant to electric, as on his stop-time cover of the Webb Pierce hit “There Stands the Glass.” His sixth album and major-label debut The Next Hundred Years (DGC), released this past spring, offers a rich composite statement of his multifarious influences and experiences. While it’s filled out with spare, tasteful accompaniment–particularly the exquisite steel and lap steel guitars of the ubiquitous Greg Leisz–Hawkins, armed with an acoustic guitar, commands the show, perching in performance, as he did on Venice Beach, on a battered milk crate. His gracious God-fearing-man persona, tempered by an inevitable wisdom, comes through most clearly on an original called “Ladder of Success” that combines the power of positive thinking with a sobering dose of reality: “No matter what you know / It’s who you know . . . So run and tell somebody / To finance somebody / So they can pay somebody / To push somebody.” Hawkins just played Orchestra Hall last week with Michelle Shocked and Pops Staples, but he casts his spell more effectively over a more intimate audience. Saturday, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jeff Sedlik.