Known both to fans of the jam band scene and to country music fans, I See Hawks In L.A. is a Los Angeles-based band that features excellent vocals and songwriting. And what's more, these guys are damned good musicians. Their new CD, New Kind Of Lonely, is an acoustic album. Fans of Wilco and Son Volt should take special notice of this CD, particularly because of the vocals. The acoustic work makes this one feel intimate.
My favorite Grateful Dead records are the acoustic ones - American Beauty, Workingman's Dead and Reckoning. Similarly, this might be I See Hawks In L.A.'s best album. This album, even more than the others, really demonstrates what a great, emotional and wise voice Rob Waller has. Plus, this group has great harmonies, which you can hear on basically every track, but especially in a song like "Mary Austin Sky."
New Kind Of Lonely opens with "Bohemian Highway," and right away it's clear how these acoustic arrangements really showcase the band's vocals and lyrics. I love the touch of sadness and weariness in Rob Waller's lead vocals, and the great way the voices blend on the line, "Bohemian highway." There is also some nice work on guitar.
In "Dear Flash" there is an easy-going beauty to the rhythm, and some nice work by Gabe Witcher on fiddle. It begins with a sort of nostalgic yearning, with lines like "Well, I sure do respect your need to fade into the hills" and "I miss those days." In the liner notes it says this song was "inspired by 'Divine Right's trip' by Gurney Norman, 1974 Whole Earth Catalogue."
"The Spirit Of Death"
My favorite part of "The Spirit Of Death" is near the end when they sing, "If you visit my grave, you won't be alone/I'll be dancing on my own gravestone/Bring your pretty women, bring your fruit of the vine/A whole lot of laughing and a little bit of crying." That section is like a sudden barn dance, and it's wonderful. And then the song suddenly speeds up, and that section really features Gabe Witcher on fiddle.
"New Kind Of Lonely"
The album's title track is a good folk tune. It opens by describing a wedding of some friends, then goes right into the line, "Now they feel like they're letting everybody down." Nice. The song describes the relationship, with a sort of melancholy sense of humor which I love. And I like that it ends with the line, "Sometimes it all comes true."
"I Fell In Love With The Grateful Dead"
It was the mid-1980s when I fell in love with the Grateful Dead, and I never tire of hearing other people's Dead stories. And that's what this song is, a collection (and recollection) of this band's personal experiences with that band. It mentions such renowned elements of the Dead scene as the Wall of Sound and the parking lot.
The song's change comes in the section where they sing about getting backstage. This definitely brings back some memories (I managed to get backstage a couple of times). "I Fell In Love With The Grateful Dead" at one point lists off some of the venues where they saw the band, including Winterland, Meadowlands, and Soldier Field (the venue of the band's final show).
By the way, "Your Love Is Going To Kill Me" also has a Grateful Dead reference.
"Mary Austin Sky"
"Mary Austin Sky" is a pretty folk tune. Once again, the song boasts some great vocals (I particularly love the repeated line, "holding back the inevitable"). I also really dig the bass line.
"Highland Park Serenade"
"Highland Park Serenade" is a folk tune about the Highland Park section of Los Angeles. It begins "Slow down, Figueroa, you're breathing too fast/Twenty miles of boulevard in a town that can't last/I wake up at night, hear your Saturday sounds/Helicopter, helicopter missions surround/It's a Highland Park serenade." This song mentions Mr. T's Bowl, which used to be my favorite music venue in L.A., until they changed the way the place was run. (Arlo, the sound guy there, is one of the best sound guys on the planet.)
"Highland Park Serenade" is a great tune, with a wonderful Latin feel (some of it is even sung in Spanish). I love these lines: "We're living at the end of Monte Vista/Where the sun sets down right when I kiss you." (Monte Vista is a street in Highland Park; so is Figueroa, for that matter.)
"Hunger Mountain Breakdown"
"Hunger Mountain Breakdown" is a seriously cool bluegrass tune which features the amazing Cliff Wagner on banjo. I am always happy to hear that guy play. And of course the song also features some great vocals - their voices are perfect for bluegrass. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "You know that if I'm up here on the mountain/My problems will soon be at an end/Well, I traveled all the way across this country/To climb above these pastures once again/See the smoke rising from the chimneys/Like memories scattering in the wind."
"Hunger Mountain Breaksown" was written by Rob Waller, Paul Lacques and Carter Stowell.
"If You Lead I Will Follow"
New Kind Of Lonely concludes with "If You Lead I Will Follow," a wonderful and gorgeous country song. Check out these lyrics: "The angels are singing/And I'm still clinging to the crack at the end of the ledge/You're calling to me/Denying gravity/I close my eyes and step over the edge." I love this song.
On an album full of great songs, "If You Lead I Will Follow is probably my favorite track. The chorus is, "If you lead I will follow/You give me comfort from the world/When my heart is feeling hollow/You fill it up with your diamonds and pearls."
"If You Lead I Will Follow" was written by Rob Waller and Paul Marshall.
CD Track List
- Bohemian Highway
- Dear Flash
- The Spirit Of Death
- New Kind Of Lonely
- I Fell In Love With The Grateful Dead
- Mary Austin Sky
- Big Old Hypodermic Needle
- River Run
- Highland Park Serenade
- Younger But Wiser
- Hunger Mountain Breakdown
- You Love Is Going To Kill Me
- If You Lead I Will Follow
I See Hawks In L.A. are Rob Waller on lead vocals and guitar; Paul Lacques on guitar, dobro and vocals; and Paul Marshall on acoustic bass, electric bass and vocals. Joining them on this recording are Gabe Witcher on fiddle, Cliff Wagner on banjo, Richie Lawrence on accordion, and Dave Raven on drums. Bubba Hernandez provides backing vocals on "Highland Park Serenade."
New Kind Of Lonely is scheduled to be released on March 6, 2012. I See Hawks In L.A. have released several other CDs, including Shoulda Been Gold (2010).
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