"Bleed a Little While Tonight." "Rosy and Grey." "Salesmen, Cheats and Liars."
These are all songs penned by revered Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Hawkins more than 25 years ago, back before multiple generations of Buffalonians discovered these tracks and others by Hawkins’ Toronto-based Lowest of the Low to soundtrack secluded keg parties, barroom laughs or the unpleasant aftermath of truncated romance.
Nestled within the band’s catalog of relatable advice and barstool therapy is the reliable voice of a friend, one who’s there to calm, empathize and buy the next round.
And no matter the generation, there’s a trust in this interaction that’ll always resonate, which is one reason that Nickel City natives and Hawkins — who’ll line up Lowest of the Low with Willie Nile for “Hungry Hearts: A Benefit for Food Bank of WNY” on April 22 at Town Ballroom (681 Main St.), then perform solo material backed by his Low bandmates inside the venue's Leopard Lounge on April 23 — still feel such a mutual bond years after first discovering each other.
“Every time [the Lowest of the Low] come to Buffalo, it’s always the same,” said Hawkins, reached by phone last week. “We get the same vibe and are welcomed with open arms. Everybody in the place are singing all the lyrics, and there’s just a real blood brother/blood sister relationship we have with Buffalo. It isn’t the same anywhere else, and it isn’t the same in any Canadian city, either.”
This is partly due to the enduring imprint of 1991’s “Shakespeare, My Butt,” an album honored by Canada’s Chart magazine as one of its country’s Top 10 albums of all time, ranked amid such classics as Neil Young’s “Harvest” and the Band’s “Music From the Big Pink.”
Crafted by a 25-year-old Hawkins after a major breakup and while transitioning away from songwriting influenced by the political likes of U2, the 17-song album’s material reflects vulnerability still applicable to anyone navigating the harrowing (and often booze-accompanied) complexities of young adulthood.
It was a masterstroke for Hawkins, but it was merely the start of a prolific songwriting career, one that welcomed its 15th album with the solo release of “Spit, Sputter and Sparkle” in late March. Recorded in Hawkins’ home studio, inspired by his 10-year-old daughter and resplendent with the part-tender, part-tenacious guitar rock that’s personified his best group or solo work, the album shows an artist who’s sturdy — but still searching for more.
“I feel like if you’re not curious, if you’re not hungry and looking for new things all the time or finding things for yourself, then you’re in the process of dying,” said Hawkins. “You’re either staying where you are or losing ground and going down the other side of the hill.”
But growth as an artist doesn’t mean turning his back on the album cuts and crowds that’ve propelled his career, whether solo, with the Low, or while joining his formidable lineups of the Rusty Nails or Do Good Assassins.
Teaming with his Low members and Buffalo native Nile—who recently played two barnburners with Hawkins and Co. at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace in support of “Spit, Sputter and Sparkle” — for Friday’s WNY Food Bank benefit show is a testament to his material’s impact, as well as his commitment to those first Buffalo crowds, the ones who’d memorize his scribbled lines — and have continued to sing them back at him through three decades.
“We feel so in love and so indebted to Buffalo. The people have been so good to us over the years, so we want to do what we can to give back.”
What: The Lowest of the Low and Willie Nile as part of "Hungry Hearts: A Benefit for Food Bank of WNY”
When: 8 p.m. April 22 in Town Ballroom (622 Main St.)
Tickets: $28 to $32
What: Ron Hawkins (solo)
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 23 in Leopard Lounge at Town Ballroom
Tickets: $21 to $24