The Hillbilly Burlesque of Hick’ry Hawkins
The first piece I ever contributed to the print version of No Depression was a CD review of Anarky, Tennessee, the debut of punkabilly honky-tonker Hick’ry Hawkins. I mention this because Hawkins (Currently based in Charlotte, NC) is still out there playing his unique brand of traditional country propped up with punk rock, and because I lucked into catching an unusual solo set from him last night at The Mill Lounge in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Unusual, because Hawkins’ set preceded a local burlesque group, Bizarro Burlesque, and its very revealing repertoire of risque entertainment–though given his predeliction towards pretty raunchy material himself, maybe it wasn’t as unusual as it was appropriate.
Even without his typical band of barroom veterans (Hawkins said he recently “fired the band”), Hick’ry cuts an entertaining swath through any room he plays–there were plenty of folks there who’d never heard of him before this show, yet by the set-closing, countrified version of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” they were all singing along.
That’s probably Hawkin’s biggest asset–the ability to turn a room full of strangers drinking into a strange room full of drunks in the length of time it takes to rip through a set of songs such as, “The Widest Trailer In the Lot,” “The Hell I Am,” and “The NRA Took My Cousin Away.” Sure, he’s a caricature of classic country stereotypes at times, but the man is transparently sincere in his love of both Johnny Cash and Johnny Thunders (He sings original tunes about both musical icons during most shows), and what’s not to love about that?
The burlesque group was augmented this night by a special guest performer from the Raleigh, NC area, Rachael Wright, who provided the crowd with a titillating preview of the full show to come by dancing during one of Hawkins’ songs, draping her increasingly smaller garments on his mike stand as she removed them one by one. Hawkins, in his own way, has taken the core of both country and punk and stripped it down to the essence of a man, a guitar, and a good drinking song.
Sorry, no pictures of this one (of all the nights to not have a camera with me…). Check out Hawkins’ Myspace page for some music and future show dates.