George ‘Nighthawk’ Lilly has been in the business for over fifty years as a musician and I bet hardly anyone knows him.
Lilly, who entered the professional musical arena in 1961, first started playing in a Rock’Roll Band, moved from CapeCod to Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, later on to New York and then to the New England area, as well as to other locations such as New Orleans and Florida. The man also ran a studio in the seventies and eighties, was responsible for a radio station and worked there with musicians such as Muddy Waters, Sun Ra, Tom Scott, Taj Mahal, and others.
With The Half Fast Allstarz, he put together a band that met his expectations to record his music. The result is Thinkin’ About You Baby, and I think that the many places where the musician had resided and was able to gather various impressions may have influenced his style of Blues and Rock into various expressions. The music from New Orleans is reflected just as much as the classic blues from Chicago or the variety from Texas. On “Crazy About You Baby”, originally by Little Walter, Ray Charles’s influence shimmers through, but this song also reminds me a lot of Mose Allison. Other associations can easily be made with musicians like Little Walter, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy or Junior Wells.
The band plays very professionally and empathetically, the passion pours out of the speakers, and with a cool and relaxed touch, the record starts the title track with a lively Hammond and a fine wind arrangement. This music swings with elegance and surprisingly, Lilly as leader and guitarist, does not place himself in the foreground and under the spotlight. For that, we have to wait for Otis Rush’s classic, because in “All Your Love (I Miss Lovin’)” Lilly shows how sensitive and expressive he can be with his instrument.
The other cover versions also carry that personal touch. The musician has an individual voice, which is not necessarily strongly blues-soaked but is nevertheless convincing in the overall context.
In my opinion, strong songs are also such as the swinging, shuffling “Snatch It Back”, the flow of the totally relaxed version of “Parchman Farm”, which reminds me a little of J. J. Cale, as well as the very emotional blues of “Somewhere Down The Line”. George Lilly has really earned it to be given much more attention in today’s Blues genre. Oh, and I don’t want to miss to point out the great sax solo in the last piece, “Walking The Dog”!
- Wolfgang Giese