Ted Hawkins, Love You Most Of All

Fred Goodman

By Fred Goodman

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Love You Most Of All

Ted Hawkins

Released posthumously in 1999, Love You Most of All is a coda to one of modern music's most remarkable recording careers. A Mississippi-born street musician and peripatetic wanderer, Hawkins found his way to Los Angeles in the '60s in search of the manager of his musical idol Sam Cooke. Although his search proved fruitless, Hawkins set up shop on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, becoming a fixture of the street scene. "Discovered" by record producer Bruce Bromberg, Hawkins released his first album of busker's tunes and covers, Watch Your Step, in 1982. His warm, unadorned approach won Hawkins raves, including a five-star review in Rolling Stone, but he remained largely a street musician until his discovery a few years later in England. Moving to London, he began the most commercially fruitful stretch of his career, touring Europe and the Far East. Yet when he ultimately returned to the US, he once again slipped into obscurity until being signed by DGC Records in the mid '90s, a year before his death.

Love You Most of All is a marvelous showcase for all of Hawkins 'charms: he had a warm, generous singing style that embraced rather than overpowered songs, and a full if unadorned guitar style. Perhaps through his years of busking, Hawkins also had a sure sense of why songs become standards, which allowed him to pick the kind of tunes everyone knows but never seem to tire of, one of the things that made his recordings so charming. Among the highlights are superb covers of two of his main man Sam Cooke's biggest hits, "Chain Gang" and "Bring It on Home to Me." Such diverse classics as "Dock of the Bay," "Blowin 'in the Wind" and "Your Cheatin 'Heart" get the Hawkins treatment, and the album includes nods to his gospel roots in "Sweet Jesus" and "Happy Days."