Review: I See Hawks in L.A. “New Kind of Lonely”

                                                                  “Spirit of Death” by I See Hawks in L.A.

I See Hawks In L.A.
New Kind of Lonely
By Gerry Gomez, Staff Writer


Los Angeles’ reigning kings of Cosmic American Canyon Country Rock must be easing into a comfy chair atop a shag carpet right about now, enjoying a smoke and a toke as they celebrate their sixth release, New Kind of Lonely. Continuing the tradition of mellow, Folky-Psychedelia, paired with warm vocal harmonies, the group brings rich, illustrative, socially poignant lyrics to life again with a sound only they can produce.

Long at the top of hill of the local batch of folk infused country rock bands that re-sparked in the canyons over a decade ago, I See Hawks in LA prove with New Kind of Lonely, why they are so beloved and also why lyrically, they stand for something larger than themselves. Musically, there’s no denying that the Hawks have honed a tight bond over their twelve years as musicians and brothers in arms forming one of the most consistent and cohesive outfits in the local genre.

The songs on this release are mature folk tunes, sprinkled with bits of bluegrass and plenty of acoustic space thrown. Featuring plenty of upright bass, dobro and even some smoking fiddle,  the Hawks deliver an acoustic based album that borrows the same homeyness found in some of their previous work.

Kicking off this album of completely new tunes (the first since 2008′s Hallowed Ground) with a frolicking country ramble down the “Bohemian Highway,” I See Hawks settle into the familiar with some decidedly featured acoustic arrangements. With a late 60’s, Laurel Canyon vibe, the band falls into comfortable territory, carrying on the convention of Joni Mitchell, Buffalo Springfield, The Bryds, Flying Burrito Brother, Chris Hillman and Graham Nash, that put LA on the roots rock map and gave the city its signature sound.

Taking center stage on New Kind of Lonely are well-crafted lyrics which share the spotlight with intricate, acoustic instrumentation made up of Waller’s rhythm guitar, Paul Marshall’s loping bass lines, along with the talented fingers of Paul Lacques, who brings some tasty finger picking that sounds like a ride through the Central Coast, soaring high on that stuff Bohemians are so fond of smoking.

No better example is there than the standout, “I Fell in Love with the Grateful Dead,” a fond reflection back to the days of courting the forefathers of San Francisco Country-Psych. The song recalls the hippie melodies floating through main character’s head as he and his sister first snuck out to see the Dead at the Hollywood Palladium. The song, also co-penned with Anthony Lacques, paints a picture of a crowd of groupies that caravans with the band, and the sights and sounds that were intoxicating for the young man at the center of the story. Midway through the tale, the Hawks break into a Seals & Crofts sounding bridge as Waller sings about the backstage scene to then get to the point of the song: it’s time to band together and embrace the hippie love message. It is love that the world could sure use more of.

At first blush, it’s easy to swallow the song as an ode to a favorite time gone by. But, the Hawks have an ability to employ the lure of the band’s laid-backness to get their point across.  In the folk tradition, the Hawks use music to state a point or nurture a young person’s mind through listening to the message in the music. In an inviting way, I See Hawks in LA ask listeners to join in the caravan, both literally and figuratively on “I Fell In Love with the Grateful Dead.”  But soon enough, they get down into social politics of what the Dead denizens are advocating. Waller does sing their case eloquently and entertainingly and it’s a layered tale of a time that formed the Hawk’s worldview.

Shedding the pen of the enlightened, “Spirit of Death,” is an emotional tribute song to friend and kindred soul, local musician Amy Farris. Farris died last year and left a hole felt by the LA roots community. She was a violin virtuoso and fragile soul who lent her talents to many artists locally, each time rubbing off her special beauty on their projects. The song employs fellow fiddler Gabe Witcher to lay down a solo to carry her spirit to the great beyond. He does so respectfully and more than capably.

Thirteen tracks populate New Kind of Lonely, all gems from a very talented group. I See Hawks in LA are a treasure to Los Angeles and all of California, if only as troubadours who further the country folk rock continuum. But that’s hardly the whole story.  I See Hawks  have lessons to teach. And the lessons need fall on ears that can embrace them. In a rare and unique way, the Hawks bring great musicianship, great songwriting and a great message to the universe. In times of serious depletion of love, the band hold their place as an integral part of the Sin City scene.

Fans can see Hawks in L.A., as the band are playing  McCabe’s on Friday night, Feb. 24. They are celebrating their release with TJ favorites, Old Californio. Go and spread the love.

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