Artist: Ron Pope & the Nighthawks
Album: Ron Pope & the Nighthawks
Label: Brooklyn Basement Records
Release Date: 01/08/2016
If in fact Ron Pope has been residing well below the radar for most of his career, there’s a good chance this self-titled effort with his band the Nighthawks might turn things around. A clearly journeyman roots-rocker, he pursues his muse with the full intent of garnering some genuine populist appeal. Veering from road weary narratives (“Southern Cross”) and assertive rockers (“Hell of High Water,” “White River Junction”) to songs that resonate through reflection and remorse (“Leave You Behind,” “Lies and Cigarettes”), Pope asserts himself as a master of drama and deliberation, qualities that becomes even more clear as the album rolls along.
If that was all that Pope and company had going for them, their competence might overshadow their creativity. It adheres to a template that’s similar in sound to a great many bands these days, especially those in the realms of Americana. Happily though, Pope instills the kind of hooks that can make a song sound exceptional and allow it to stand apart from the competition. That in itself is a revelation. The shout-out chorus on “Take Me Home” is the kind of thing that ought to inspire a singalong, while the tenacious tack the band takes on “Ain’t No Angel” demonstrates the kind of ferocity that deserves to gain them notice. The entire album rings with deliberate authority, a sound and style that assert their standing as genuine heartland rockers worthy of a stadium stage.
Hopefully then, Ron Pope & the Nighthawks will ratchet up its namesakes’ standing, and give them the kind of audience that will support their insurgent stance. It doesn’t necessarily establish a new standard, but it does reaffirm the potential in taking a provocative approach. Suffice it to say, determination does count.