Robert Nighthawk and His Flames of Rhythm, Live on Maxwell Street, 1964 (Rounder Records)

Robert Nighthawk was among the earliest of Mississippi bluesmen to emigrate to Chicago, and this disc, recorded by blues historian Norman Dayron in September 1964, is about as lowdown, dirty, mean and nasty as the real thing gets. Accompanied only by rhythm guitar and drums and Carey Bell’s wonderful harp on two numbers, this is Nighthawk’s gig, and he is the man. Though the music is at times ragged, and the tempos vary from time to time, it is exciting to hear Nighthawk play in the biting B.B. King-influenced single-string guitar style and against all else, the savage wash of chords and slide push the music to the occasional brink of chaos. If the name Robert Nighthawk is not as well known as those of his peers, it’s probably because he was so under-recorded. Although this LP was originally released 10 years ago, this is its debut on CD. It’s not state-of-the-art sound, but it is essential to any comprehensive blues collection. So if you missed it 10 years ago, or you’ve never heard of Robert Nighthawk, be thankful Rounder has made it available once again.