*** Ted Hawkins, "The Next Hundred Years," DGC/Geffen. From the Venice boardwalk to this major-label debut, Hawkins brings a sweet soulfulness that at times recalls Sam Cooke. Producer Tony Berg rightfully keeps it simple, adding just the necessary touches to flesh out the folk-gospel (and occasionally country) undercurrents of the heartfelt, direct songs. Hawkins comes off as a charmingly unrefined natural, but his personal, spiritual writing and performance lack the kind of groundbreaking or revealed secrets to make him seem like more.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).