At one point or another, almost everyone covers a blues song. It's a rite of passage that even the Stones and Zeppelin passed through. But playing original music is just as important as covering the classics, and the Nightwalkers, who have been working on the local blues circle since 1996, haven't figured that out yet. Heartache Boulevard, their first CD, a follow-up to the four-song cassette "Pain Avenue" the band released in 1997, is a collection of songs by artists such as B.B. King, Albert King, and Willie Dixon, but it doesn't feature one song they wrote themselves. While singer-guitarist Jeff Hurd rearranges the tracks and adds a few lyrics to Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights, Big City," it's not enough to keep this record from being superfluous -- after all, when the masters are so good, there's not much point in listening to second-rate renditions unless they cast the songs in an entirely new light.
The Nightwalkers, who, in addition to Hurd, include keyboardist Dave Parrella, drummer Mike Blazy, and bassist Brian McDonald, take a straightforward approach to these standards. Three of the tracks -- "My Babe," "You're Gonna Need Me," and "Rock Me Baby" -- were recorded live at Wilbert's. Because they have a grittier texture, the live songs come off better than the other tunes, which were recorded at the Buchanan Recording Complex. The Nightwalkers do a credible job of covering tracks such as Albert King's "You're Gonna Need Me" and Willie Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man," which features terrific slide guitar. Including one or two of these songs would have been fine, but releasing an album that consists of 10 covers makes little sense for the Nightwalkers.