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Ron Pope and the Nighthawks

Ron Pope & The Nighthawks – 2016 (Brooklyn Basement)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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Ron Pope's career has found him dwelling well below the radar, but with the release of this self-titled effort that finds him sharing the bill with his band the Nighthawks, he clearly makes his mark as a journey man roots rocker with full populist potential. Pope's credentials are fully intact, as he veers from road weary narratives ("Southern Cross') and assertive rockers ("Hell or High Water," "White River Junction") to songs that resonate through reflection and remorse ("Leave You Behind," "Lies and Cigarettes"). Pope is a master of drama and deliberation, qualities that becomes even more obvious as the album winds along.

Still, if that was all Pope and the Nighthawks had going for them, they'd best be described as competent, but not necessarily creative. This is a sound that underscores the template for a great many bands these days, most of whom describe themselves wholly as Americana. Happily then, Pope demonstrates the ability to instil the kind of hooks that can make a song sound exceptional. The shout-out chorus on "Take Me Home" immediately inspires a singalong, while the tenacious tack the band takes on "Ain't No Angel" demonstrates the kind of ferocity that ought to attract instant attention. The entire album rings with an authority that ought not be taken lightly, one that asserts their standing as genuine heartland rockers worthy of a stadium stage.

Ultimately, "Ron Pope and the Nighthawks" might serve to ratchet up its namesakes' standing. It doesn't necessarily establish a new standard, but it does reaffirm the potential in taking a provocative approach. Here's further proof that determination is often all it takes.