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Arkansas Rockpile

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Album Review

Released in the U.K. in 1970, Arkansas Rockpile gathers together a bunch of sessions Ronnie Hawkins cut for Roulette between 1959 and 1963. Unlike some of these vinyl Roulette samplers — for instance, 1967's "Mojo Man," which was paired with Arkansas Rockpile on a 2008 CD by Collectors' Choice — there's actually some rhyme and reason behind the assembly of Arkansas Rockpile, as it concentrates on some of the Hawkss hardest rockers, including "Mary Lou" and "Thirty Days," the Chuck Berry song that he took into the Top 50 re-recorded as "Forty Days." To these two hits add no less than three Bo Diddley songs — "Say Boss Man," "Bo Diddley," and "Who Do You Love?," the latter in a version so ferocious it turned into a signature (he later revived this arrangement almost exactly on the Band's The Last Waltz, but the Hawks sound meaner here) — the frenzied, nutty "Horace," a slow blues shuffle "Come Love," the easy-grooving "Arkansas," and "Odessa," a rip-roaring take on Billy Lee Riley's "My Gal is Red Hot," and "Mojo Man" (repeated from the "Mojo Man" LP) and Arkansas Rockpile adds up to the purest blast of rock & roll from the Hawk to be released as an LP.


Born: January 10, 1935 in Huntsville, AR

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Ronnie Hawkins is a rockabilly singer who formed his original backing band, the Hawks, while attending the University of Arkansas. After auditioning unsuccessfully for Sun in 1957, he started working regularly in Canada the following year, eventually taking up permanent residence there. After one release on the Canadian Quality label, he signed with Roulette in New York in 1959, having hits with "Forty Days" and "Mary Lou." The live fervor of Hawkins (known as Mr. Dynamo) and the Hawks' show continued...
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