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Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms "Spectator Shoes"

My first introduction to Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms was not via his music, but rather his gifted writing of Blues articles on the American Blues News website mainly covering and reporting on recent Blues events such as the King Biscuit Blues Festival and the Labatt Blue Blues Festival, to name just a few. One can only imagine my joy when I recently received a copy of his newest album, "Spectator Shoes", in the mail for review, as it was now a great opportunity for me to get acquainted with another side of Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms.


Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms started playing music at the young age of 6, with his musical instrument of choice being the Piano, an instrument he still plays today, along with a Hammond B-3 Organ, as well as Harmonica. The Hammond-Suzuki Organ Company, which is the maker of B-3 Organs, also endorses Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms.


Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms career as a veteran of Beale Street and Blues has now spanned some 30 years and as you can well imagine, he has had the opportunity to work with countless Blues greats, such as, B.B. King, James Cotton, Little Milton, Blind Mississippi Morris, Bob Margolin, Reverend Horton Heat, Jimmy Thackery, and many many more. In addition, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms has also been part of The Reba Russell Band since 1991 and also records, writes, and performs with his own band, The Wampus Cats. Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms recording credits now number, with the release of "Spectator Shoes", 37 albums, of which 6 were with The Reba Russell Band.


"Spectator Shoes" consists of 11 Tracks of which 7 were penned by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms. Of the remaining 4 Tracks 3 were written by performers on this Album and included Track 4 "Memphis Mike's Onion Rings" (Memphis Mike Forrest), Track 10 "Next Time You See Me" (Earl Forest), and Track 11 (Bill Bailey). Non-Performers on "Spectator Shoes" that were credited with songs were Track 3 "Whooping and Hollering" (D. Mattis & D. Robey) and Track 11 "Next Time You See Me" which in addition to Earl Forest is also co-written with Bill Harvey. "Spectator Shoes" was produced by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms and Brad Webb. Brian Webb also played Guitar on, and Engineered this album.


Considered "a rollicking set of Memphis blues and boogie", by a fellow reviewer, whom I wholeheartedly concur with, "Spectator Shoes", consist of a great mix of regular Tracks along with 4 great instrumentals which start with "Memphis Mike's Onion Rings", a great Guitarfest with Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms performing his magic on the Piano, and ends with the final Track “Crumpy-ta-lump”, a great closer in which the performers are all announced one after the other, as they each get their moment to shine.


Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms along with his amazing Wampus Cats, which for this album consisted of Memphis Mike Forrest (Guitar), Mojo Schickie (Guitar), John Burgess (Drums), Bill Bailey (Electric/Upright Bass), and Jumping James Cunningham (Drums Tracks 5 & 8), perform pretty well the best Blues and R&B one can expect to hear nowadays, especially the Beale Street Memphis variety. Additional performers on this gem of an album included Reba Russell whom did Backup Vocals on Track 8, and Brad Webb (Guitar), Tony Adams (Drums), Earl Forest (Vocalist), and former Bass player for Canned Heat Richard Hite, on Tracks 3 & 10.


On a sad note, "Spectator Shoes" was the last recordings of 3 of the artists, Richard Hite, John Burgess, and Earl Forest, for which this album is dedicated to their memory.


"Spectator Shoes", was a superb introduction for me of the music of Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms and his fellow artists. It was a thoroughly enjoyable album and one in which has certainly got my appetite going for more of his releases, in the future.


For Memphis style Blues and R&B, "Spectator Shoes" will be a hard one to beat this year.


Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)

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