Saturday, February 3, 2024

The HawtThorns: “Zero Gravity” (2024) CD Review

Though it was great having The HawtThorns here in Los Angeles, Nashville seems to be a perfect fit for the duo of KP Hawthorn and Johnny Hawthorn. Their new album, Zero Gravity, recorded at The Studio Nashville, might just be their best yet. It is their third full-length release, following 2019’s Morning Sun and 2022’s Tarot Cards And Shooting Stars. It features mostly original material, along with one wonderful cover (and that cover features a special guest on harmony vocals). Both KP and Johnny provide vocals and play guitar on these tracks. They are joined by Ted Pecchio on bass, Nick Buda on drums and percussion, Jano Rix on keys and percussion, and Chris Condon on guitar.

The album opens with “Nothing But A Shadow,” KP Hawthorn delivering an intriguing opening line, “Woke up in a graveyard bus stop.” We feel like we are placed in the middle of a story, and so pay particular attention to the lyrics. Plus, the guitar has that cool, haunted western sound, helping to tell the story too. It’s a song of being on the road, with dreams of heading home, and feeling like only a shadow is left of her. Yet she tells us, “I still got a long, long way to go.” And check out that exciting instrumental section in the track’s second half. This is a seriously cool start to the album. It’s followed by “Zero Gravity,” the album’s title track. This one has an interesting opening, with an electronic sound. Then the acoustic guitar emerges from that, the song like a response to that opening, directly addressing the source of the sound, the first lines being “Alien from outer space/You’ve far surpassed this human race.” There is an innocence to the sound, in the guitar and KP’s vocal approach. “Tell me what is life like on Mars.” This song builds beautifully, and I love the percussion on this track. It was written by KP Hawthorn and Steve Berns, and features an excellent vocal performance. “I can feel you with me, even though I know you’re not/I let you go in zero gravity/I’m awake now/But in my dreams you’re coming back to me.” This is one of my favorites.

“Hands On A Clock” has a brighter, livelier country feel. “And if the world freezes up, will there still be a morning after?” Partly due to KP’s wonderful vocal performance, this song makes me feel good each time I listen to it. “Keep your feet on the ground/Keep your head in the clouds/Keep your friends all around/There’s no stopping us now.” Some songs just feel like the word Yes, you know? That’s followed by “Trouble.” This is an original song written by KP Hawthorn, not a cover of the Cat Stevens song. It has something of a rock flavor, in the guitar work and its rhythm, as well as the rhythm of her vocal delivery. “Under the spotlight/Dog fight/Little bit of stage fright now.” There is a power behind this one, and it has some catchy elements, and ends up being another of the disc’s highlights.

“Faking It” has a sweeter sound as it opens, a sound that is wrapped in memory and nostalgia even before KP sings that opening phrase, “I remember when.” It soon takes an interesting turn (though I suppose I should have anticipated it by the song’s title): “Now when I see you, I’ll say/’Hey, been a while, you look good, how you been’/And I’ll smile while we talk/And you’ll think I’m your friend/But I’ll be faking it/Faking it.” And we learn how she really feels about this person: “I don’t want to see your pretty face anymore/In fact, I’m glad you’re gone.” So these are not sweet memories, this isn’t a song of longing for the past, not at all. This one was written by KP Hawthorn and Shane Alexander. It is followed by “Flying,” which opens in a gentle, thoughtful place. Its first line also contains the word “remember,” but this one has a much different feel. “Remember that dream where you were flying/Staying in the air wasn’t hard to do/Gliding over the horizon/Don’t come down ‘til you want to.” And this line stands out to me: “Keep control of what you can in this land of insanity.” This song feels like a friend, offering an ear and a voice:  Maybe just go with where you’re happy/And let the rest work itself out.” It’s a pretty song with a good rhythm.

“Don’t Plan To Lose” is a lively, fast-paced country song, the drums pushing it forward. “Let’s not get wasted tonight/I want to keep it on the rails/It’s easy to mix up the feelings/When words and their meanings fail.” This track features some really good work on guitar. “I can see the finish line/And I don’t plan to lose.” Then “Long Game” has a sort of easygoing vibe as it begins. “We’re tired, and it’s a late night/But you know we’ll get through this, just hold me tight.” This one was written by KP Hawthorn and Caitlin Cannon. It is followed by “Don’t Wait By The Phone,” a fun track, with some delicious work on keys. And on this one Johnny Hawthorn sings lead. “And I’ve got nothing, nothing left to say/So don’t wait by the phone/I’m already gone.” It was written by KP Hawthorn and Johnny Hawthorn. There is also some great guitar work on this track.

“Save This One” is pretty as it begins, feeling like a dream. Its first line, “The one where we’re on the river,” sounds like the title of a Friends episode. This is a song of memories, of photographs. “Trying to say goodbye/But it’s hard/So maybe I’ll just save this one.” I sometimes find it difficult to get rid of things, and particularly difficult to get rid of photos. It is like tearing away at memories, at pieces of your past. How do we know when it is the right time to say the final goodbye, not only to someone, but also to the person that we were during that time? “What is the end game/Can I learn if I don’t remember/Feels like we were good together.” This is yet another of my personal favorite tracks. The album then concludes with its sole cover, an energetic rendition of The Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved,” a song that was also a hit for Linda Ronstadt. On this track, special guest Alice Wallace joins them on harmonies, adding another layer to the beautiful vocals. This track also contains some strong work on guitar.

CD Track List

  1. Nothing But A Shadow
  2. Zero Gravity
  3. Hands On A Clock
  4. Trouble
  5. Faking It
  6. Flying
  7. Don’t Plan To Lose
  8. Long Game
  9. Don’t Wait By The Phone
  10. Save This One
  11. When Will I Be Loved

Zero Gravity is scheduled to be released on April 5, 2024 on Red Parlor Records.

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