Cold & Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins (Eight 30)
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., Dec. 25, 2015
Ted Hawkins spent 30 years perched on a milk crate, singing supernaturally soulful folk on Venice Beach for coins. Months after his major label debut in 1995, he died. Two decades after the fact, this tribute album herds together an Austin-centric collection produced by Shinyribs frontman Kevin Russell, radio promo wiz Jenni Finlay, and author Brian T. Atkinson. Fifteen tracks employ varied approaches to the repertoire: Bad Liver Danny Barnes spanks a solitary acoustic guitar on infidelity ode "Bad Dog," while Gurf Morlix – whose late co-conspirator Blaze Foley might have been Austin's version of Hawkins – opts for a similarly stripped-down, thumpy method on heartfelt confession "I Gave Up All I Had." Others go big with rousing send-offs, including the 'Ribs offering a Showtime at the Apollo version of "Who Got My Natural Comb," the Damnations powering up folk-blues on the timeless "Bring It on Home Daddy," and the honoree's widow Elizabeth and daughter Tina-Marie Hawkins Fowler contributing the LP's truest treasure in a jaw-dropping version of "Baby." Cold & Bitter Tears ultimately relies on mainline Americana reproductions of the busker's songbook, which prompts both magical depth (Kasey & Bill Chambers' title track) as well as Mary Gauthier neutering the spring-heeled chorus of "Sorry You're Sick." Even the missteps make you yearn for Ted Hawkins.