Sliding at You: Maynard Silva and the New Hawks

Excerpt From:
Boston Blues News: The Newsletter of the Boston Blues Society
Volume 11 / No. 2 / February - March 1997

Sliding at You:
Maynard Silva and the New Hawks
By Peter Cahill

Maynard Silva is one of the best slide guitar players to come along in quite a long time.  So it’s only fitting that he and “Silvertone” Steve Coveney, one of the original members of J.B. Hutto’s New Hawks, from the band that is now known as Maynard Silva and the New Hawks.

Silva was doing solo gigs as an acoustic artist for years that included a few J.B. Hutto songs like “Too Much Alcohol” and “Hip-Shakin” in his repertoire.

But little did he know that “Silvertone” Steve was in the audience at a gig at the former Sticky Mike’s in Boston.  Steve said he was blown away by the way Silva handled the J.B. guitar sound, and he said he just had to bring it to Maynard’s attention.

After the set the two musicians talked about Hutto’s influence on their respective music since Silva knew Coveney was in Hutto’s band in the 1980s.  After reminiscing about the old days, Silva then said to Steve, “I got a fez that will fit you if you’ll stand next to me.”  The answer was obvious, which marked another beginning for the New Hawks.  Now the task was to find a rhythm section to round out the band.

Charmaine Tam had been playing bass with a few musicians around town, and had played with Steve at the House of Blues.  They decided she had the ability and it all clicked.  It was shaky at first, but Charmaine was the key to putting the band together, Silva said.

The music the band plays is not easy – as Silva says, “the focus is like a group of drummers,” meaning, you either play it or you don’t.  It is very difficult to teach this method of playing to other musicians.  Hutto played in this style, rhythms interlaced with each other.  Interaction among the other members of the group is also a key element.

The newest member of the band, Aaron Puyana, played with harpist Jerry Portnoy for a while before joining the New Hawks.  He was just what they were looking for, a drummer who has that innate feel for the music and for the players around him.

The band has just released it’s first CD, Wall of Tin, a live recording from the Met Café in Providence that was recorded last winter.  The musical fires were burning white hot inside the Met that night.  Silva was all over the club playing like a man possessed – on his knees, the floor, and of course, hamming it up for the ladies.  It was a great introduction for the band.

The record starts off with a great rendition of Hutto’s “Pet Cream Man,” then slides into a slew of originals such as two instrumentals – “Lightnin’ Rod” and “Cold Water Blues” – personal favorites mainly because they have a very swampy feel to them. They are well performed with a steady rhythm section and dueling guitars which no words can match.  The one acoustic track, Bukka White’s “Old Lady,” really shows how diverse the band can be when it tones down.  “Veronica,” written by Silvertone Steve, is a heart-wrenching, beautiful song that warmly hits the spot as the finale.  Actually, Veronica is Steve’s wife and he says, “If she can put up with me for 16 years, she deserves to have a song written about her.”

The CD was originally released in Europe on Eagle Records, but is now handled by Black Rose Records of Saugus, Mass., which will celebrate a release party at The Brew House in Danvers, Mass., March 29.  Another record is already in the bag and the New Hawks will soon be back in the studio to begin another.

It would be a nice idea if someone would buy a few copies of their debut disc and give them to local blues club promoters.  Frankly, I can’t see why this band is not playing more gigs.  They put on a smokin’ show at the Hatch Shell this past fall at the Charles River Boston Blues Festival, and recently tore up the House of Blues.  Nevertheless, few promoters are inviting them to play.  Get with it!

As Silva says, “Some nights you just got to burn.”