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Memories of a lost voice

The Final Tour
The Final Tour
By Ted Hawkins

Evidence Music: 1998

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This review first appeared in the February 14, 1998 edition of the American Reporter.

There's never been an American singer who could combine pure lung power with the emotional desperation like the late Ted Hawkins. Once you've heard his singing – whether live or on record – you won't forget the punch he could deliver in a song.

In that, his music was a reflection of his life. For most of his career as a musician, Hawkins was an itinerant street musician, playing along the boardwalk in Venice, Calif., for tips and compliments. There were lean years, brushes with the law, and not much success. It was only in his middle years, in 1982, that he was "discovered" and recorded by Rounder Records. And it was only in the last year before his premature death of diabetes three years ago that he finally got the chance to record for a major label (Geffen) and tour internationally.

Then, in a script that Hollywood would surely reject as too morose, he died before he had a chance to capitalize on the good fortune that finally came his way – before he had a chance to share his talent with the world.

And so all we're left with is a handful of studio albums and whatever live recordings are lying around. Thanks to Jerry Gordon over at Evidence Music, some of Hawkins' last performances are now available on CD as "The Final Tour."

Hawkins is in top form on this album – his voice swooping and soaring, the emotion flying all over the place, backed only by his simple acoustic guitar. Hawkins was possessed of a beautiful, sweet tenor voice – but he packed so much angst and despair into it that it could be a truly haunting experience. Take "Watch Your Step": the cold rage toward a wandering lover that he imparts to the vocals can chill your soul.

Go into a music store today and there will be all kinds of CDS dangled by record companies intent on emptying your wallet. Nearly all of them will have blurbs on the jackets promising the best listening experience of your life, to even change the way you view the universe.

But not one will grab you by the collar the way Ted Hawkins can. This album or any of the other half-dozen available by him will do the trick – his voice will stick in your head for a very long time, his music will settle into your heart and you wouldn't have it any other way.