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September 2006


September 30 ’06

The Hawks are back on the road. Specifically, the I-65 north, rising and falling through rolling midwestern hills and browning corn fields. This is the heart of Indiana, the trampled and discarded soul of America. Do these good people really support torture, the end of habeas corpus, wiretaps and secret prisons? I just can’t believe it but perhaps we have all been that effectively terrified. Terrified not by Osama and the Beheaders (Sony/BMG), but by our own cowardly leaders. Men and women who lack the moral courage to face down the hijackers and the suicide bombers with the rule of law and old fashioned human rights. Yes. The heartland. That’s where we are. But we are far from these grim thoughts most of the time. We talk of drummers and drumming as we always do when packed into a van. Our gig last night in Louisville was dreamy and surreal. The Phoenix Hill Tavern is a converted River Boat factory in an old part of town where brick buildings line narrow streets all leading to the river. The club is enormous. Three floors of brass and ferns, tchotshkis and retro-flair. We’re up against The Rolling Stones tonight who are out at Churchill downs. Tough competition.

Our superstar hosts Bill and Rebecca have booked the show, picked us up at the airport, regaled us with details of local Louisville lore, and fed us in a band guest house that’s been hermetically sealed since the 70’s. Floor to ceiling deep ply carpeting, mirrored tables with vintage cocaine residue–essence of the decade dedicated to pleasure and androgyny. Rob’s hometown buddy Mike and his great girlfriend Sonia join us in the hospitality lounge to eat sandwiches and drink grapefruit juice. The couple has driven down from Bloomington for the show. They’re both graduate students at the university. Mike studies philosophy, Sonia, Public Health and Human Sexuality. She shows the band an easy way to find the g-spot. If only we’d have known this crucial information in High School. We’re greeted in the Phoenix Hill fern/concert room by Denny Anderson, who hands us a welcome to Kentucky gift that can’t be beat: a bottle of Woodford bourbon and a bottle of Knob Creek. We immediately break open the Woodford, which is a distilled spirit to rival in sophistication any of Scotland’s finest. Hail, Denny, and wife Barbara.

Louisville is one of those towns the Hawks feel an immediate kinship with. There’s not a hint of pretension among the many fine folks we meet tonight. The landscape is mellow and mysterious, large stone and brick 19th century middle class palaces tucked into river bluffs under great old trees, lonely warehouse blocks where the midnight trains roll through.The show is good, we rock a modest sized but very enthusiastic house, co-billed with the Trustees of Modern Chemistry, who are like ourselves big Big Lebowski fans and do politically informed rock with twang and djembe. We’ll be back for sure, Louisville. The plan is to play a Derby Party to finance the trip, then do Louisville and adjacent shows. This Louisville/Chicago/Minneapolis tourette is a test run of a touring model: secure a good paying show, fly in and do regional shows. So far so good.

Our gently decaying Soviet apartment block-style Days Inn is packed with Rolling Stones fans who have flown in from all over the country for a rare appearance of the Devil’s apprentices at Churchill Downs. Matrons with the giant red tongue covering their matronly front wander the balconies looking for ice, and weathered bleach blondes of all genders pose rocklike in the lobby. It’s a scene.Rob is eating an O’brien Cheddar and Beef stick. There’s a leprechaun on the package. “Taste the Magic!”, he cheerfully calls out. Somehow the two have been married in a homogenous brown cigarillo sized sausage. Rob gives it one thumb up in the Hawks Do In A Pinch Road Food Evaluation. We’re on a tight (i.e. running late) run up to Chicago, under mellow Hoosier skies.

Patrick, son-in-law of Paddi and Jeff, who do great house concerts in Mount Washington, is a former all star college linebacker and baseball catcher now in the commodity trading pit in Chicago. His sister Kerry is also a big league talent, won a cheerleading (i.e. gymnast) scholarship to Louisville, and won the national championship. Patrick and fellow commodities trader and Vermonter Mark are driving us to Chicago in a mini-van that we’ve packed with our gear and our selves. Fear The Reaper by BOC is playing for the second time this morning. In this version they’ve edited out the long faux flamenco guitar interlude, much to Paul L’s dismay.

Classic rock has been our soundtrack since landing in Louisville. At Phoenix Hill Tavern high quality 70’s rock blasted the house before we played. Heart’s “Crazy On You” was a revelation on the big speakers. Ann Wilson is an amazing singer, and the band rocks as big as the biggest. Heart, we never knew ye.


NPR (No Problems Radio) just did a story on big pot growers on national forest land. The message is clear: grow your own. Mega growers use pesticides and artificial fertilizers, leave massive garbage pits, and contribute to stream runoff in the mountains. Your backyard shrub is your best guarantee of quality and purity.


Ya know–you can’t really influence global political-economic relations and events from your computer blog, or onstage in an alt alt country rock folk band. But we try. And if the last few diary entries appear a bit grim and earnest, we’ll try to cheer up. All this madness will pass, and as our good friend Brian Mello’s art predicts, bears will roam downtown L.A. once again. Humans won’t have to travel the globe to see wildlife. They’ll be an element of wildlife once again.
So here’s to philosopher Willie Nelson, whose zen-like ways just enabled him to get out of a one and a half pound pot bust in Louisiana with just a misdemeanor.
In his words we can find a bit of comfort and comraderie:
“Cowboys like smokey old pool rooms and clear mountain mornings
Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night
And them that don’t know him won’t like him
And them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him
He ain’t wrong he’s just different
but his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right”



2006 was the year of Gram Parsons, for many strange reasons, and I See Hawks, a Byrds/Burritos blend of brainy talent, benefited from all the posthumous attention paid to Parsons. It’s also one of the best post-Byrds roots records since Gene Clark’s No Other.



Connoisseurs of surreal country in the grand Gram Parsons/Flying Burrito Brothers/Byrds tradition will find much to love on California Country, a collection of shrewd, witty songs custom-fitted — big beats and all — for the beards’n’boots crowd. Here’s a disc that suggests its creators have their ears in the ’70s and their minds in a modern protest rally: “Byrd from West Virginia” praises the titular senator for his outspokenness on the Iraq War, and “Barrier Reef,” with its hilarious refrain that “The keeper of the leaf/Is the barrier reef to my sanity,” hints at the backwardness of the national ban on marijuana. Elsewhere, the ever-evolving lineup of I See Hawks in L.A. sees fit to cut loose. “Slash from Guns N’ Roses,” which hooks up those accustomed to trafficking purely in twang with some excellent rock guitar licks, is a prime example; in it, a Slash impersonator is confronted by the real deal at an L.A. party. “Motorcycle Mama,” meanwhile, revisits a beloved character from a same-named Neil Young song — here, she’s still laying her big spike down, only she sounds more inclined to a saddle up when she’s off the hog. Musically, I See Hawks in L.A.’s heavenly three-part harmonies are tight as ever, and frontman Rob Waller sounds by turns broken, brainy, and borrowed from a different, cooler planet. Should NASA ever find an outer-space mission for a whiskey-shooting country singer, he’s their man.

— Tammy La Groce

USA Today # Pick; UK Live Show Review


10-Pack Of Top Tunes
10 songs that really stood out to me in recent random listening:

1. Slash from Guns N’ Roses/I See Hawks in L.A.: Nothing like a good story song, and this is quite a tale: the saga of dueling Slashes appearing at rival L.A. parties in trendy Beachwood Canyon, with plenty of deliberate guitar cliches leading into an epic faceoff to determine which Slash is the imposter. And if you’re wondering where this fine alt-country/rock band comes up with this stuff, I’m told it’s based on a real incident. Album: California Country.

— Ken Barnes, USA TODAY


Sheringham Community Paper, Nottingham, England, August 2006

At the drop of a hat my good friend Kevin Neave took me over to Nottingham to see a gig that I simply couldn’t miss.  There’s a big scene in Nottingham and ‘The Forest Tavern’ on Mansfield Road sports some high powered gigs.  A lot of American artists seem to include this venue in their tours of the UK, Emmylou Harris was in Nottingham only days before I was there.  On this occasion I went to see I See Hawks in L.A. and Tony Gilkyson in support.  What a night:

I See Hawks in L.A.  An unusual name but what a sound.  Three vocals in harmony, great lead-fill guitar work in a style so appropriate to this feel coupled with slide and a lovely relaxed manner which wrapped itself around you like a blanket.  You could describe their stuff as ‘Country’ but you’d be missing something.  It had the usual great lyrics, harmonies and rhythms but had a biting edge I always associate with stuff from L.A.  A touch of Rock perhaps.  Either way it was warm and rich and left you feeling good.  What more can I say?  A great gig all round, great venue, great music and a great night. 

— Tim Jefferson


Oops. We were getting all misty eyed about Warner, Graham and McCain defending Constitutional rights against the Bush juggernaut. We spoke too soon. The compromise Senate bill establishing military tribunals for Guantanamo terror suspects allows for trials on U.S. soil that offend the essence of what our founding fathers established.

From the Washington Post: “A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that Bush essentially got what he asked for in a different formulation that allows both sides to maintain their concerns were addressed. ‘We kind of take the scenic route, but we get there,’ the official said.”Evidence from torture still is allowed, because defense attorneys won’t be able to ask if the testimony was coerced. And the amendment doesn’t ban hearsay evidence, and it does ban habeas corpus: a prisoner may be convicted based on evidence he’s not allowed to see. The Senate bill also bans U.S. court from hearing Guantanamo cases or any cases where someone, including a U.S. citizen, is deemed an “enemy combatant.” Read it and weep at the Center For Constitutional Rights website.
We’re lurching, not inching, towards repression. But it won’t affect you if you do what the good Germans did: keep your mouth shut.

Daily Variety: Dave Alvin/I See Hawks in L.A. At Safari Sam’s


June 27th, 2006
By Steven Mirkin

. . . I See Hawks in L.A. was a perfect choice to open the show. As the title of their new album, “California Country” (Western Seeds), clues you in, the Hawks draw inspiration from Buck, the Byrds and the Burrito Bros., among others, but with a modern, at times ironic (“Raised by Hippies” and the pot smuggler’s sing-along “Humboldt”) sensibility. On Saturday, their impressive three-part harmonies were often overshadowed by the interplay between guitarist Paul Lacques and guest Rick Shea on pedal steel.



Sometimes pride in America flickers in this disappointed soul, like a spike in a flatlined ECG after the patient has been pronounced dead. Four battered senators take a stand for what were once unassailable principles of American democracy, now under relentless assault. If only we the people were flesh and blood, like these lonely old men.



Los Angeles is a desert, both geographically and culturally, but those of us who pay rent here occasionally find an oasis in the Capital of Crap. I See Hawks In L.A. blew on the scene like a hot Santa Ana with their debut album in 2001. They blend country and psychedelia with soaring three-part harmonies that leave the poseurs of alt-schmaltz dust choked. Lead singer Rob Waller and lead guitarist Paul Lacques co-write most of the songs, smart and wry tone poems about mayhem and mortality and sing-a-long anthems that hoist the freak flag high.

The quartet’s third album California Country is rife with rage over the triumph of vultures. In songs like “Hard Times (Are Here Again),” and “Byrd From West Virginia” (an ode to Senator Robert Byrd), they celebrate the power of free-thinking – an authentic American value currently underutilized. “Slash From Guns N’ Roses” is the true farce about an imposter who passed himself off as the title character – a not-uncommon phenom in this celebrity-infested rathole. “Barrier Reef” is the group’s latest grand cannabis epic: “The power of the leaf/Is the barrier reef/To my sanity.”

These guys are the house band for a revolution that isn’t over yet. Some of us are growing marijuana, some of us are psychedelic country rockers, and – as the Hawks suggest in “Raised By Hippies” – some of us are being born. On that rare smog-less day, you can see us flying over the L.A. basin, proud and free.

— Michael Simmons, High Times


crooked rain.jpg

This was a band most were unfamiliar with, but by the end of the set no one was going to forget them. Belting out some of the finest countrified rock you’ll ever hear they have set the bar high for future gigs. ‘Raised by Hippies’ and especially especially especially (it really was that good) ‘Golden Girl’ were some of the best tunes all weekend.