Chuck Hawthorne Shows His American Roots

At Hill Country on June 5th

At Donn's Depot Autin, TX. Photo by Winker Withaneye

What if the soul of Townes Van Zandt found expression in the songwriting genius of Guy Clark? What if that expression was delivered, replete with a life’s worth of hard-won wisdom, through a voice as rich as James McMurtry? Well, good news, folks, that amalgam has a name and that name is Chuck Hawthorne.

After a day of torrential downpours and heavy traffic slogs, good fortune, in the lyrical words of Townes, “shines with the lights of love” through the damp and humid dusk, illuminating a welcoming DC living room where the night’s Lucky Penny House Concert will take place.

Since 2017, Paul Eckert, well known for his love of music and his generous community spirit, has been opening his home for American roots music concerts. My first performance at Eckert’s abode is a concert by Chuck Hawthorne

“I like songs where you can actually taste the whiskey,” Hawthorne tells fellow concertgoers, by way of an introduction. A few heads nod in understanding. Nothing thus far, not the familial feeling developing among the gathered guests nor the farmer’s market fresh Caprese salad on the buffet, has prepared the audience that a humanity so unaffected, so unfiltered, so genuine and raw could be channeled through the unassuming, Texas born, decorated combat marine in its midst.

Close as a handshake, this true Texas troubadour shares stories that make up the life of a man. Not a curated life that adorns, but a real life, filled with people, places and a rugged understanding:

I’ve packed my things and thanked my stars
With feet for boots and homeless scars.
Beggar woman staying up to pray,
The same man ain’t coming home

Born in Amarillo Texas, currently residing in Austin, Hawthorne has been refined by the trajectory of his own narrative. Twenty-one years serving our country, with two deployments in Iraq, gives his narrative a perennial subtext. Songwriter and soldier, but first and foremost a human being, Hawthorne helps other war veterans discover the restorative and healing power of songwriting. Hawthorne works with Soldiers Songs and Voices, founded by fellow Texas songwriter Dustin Welch to create long-lasting change through songwriting and music in the lives of active duty and prior service veterans and their families.

No one wanted the magic that Chuck Hawthorne brought to Paul Eckert’s Lucky Penny living room to end. Hawthorne patiently obliged with a seminal cover from the great Townes Van Zandt, “If I Needed You.” Find out for yourself why you do need the affirming, haunting and profound beauty of his songwriting. Join me on June 5 at Hill Country, 410 Seventh St. NW.

Chuck Hawthorne’s highly acclaimed debut album, Silver Line, was released in 2015.

A concert junky, music aficionado, and live music reviewer for Hill Rag and DC Music Review, Leanne Tankel studied writing at both UC Berkeley (BA) and Boston University (MA). In addition to music reviews, she writes prose and her manuscript, Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program. Leanne lives with her three sons and two pugs in Northern Virginia.