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October 2006


Click HERE for Swedish review.

Review from Spain:


I See Hawks In L.A.: California Country

Once in a while, in the world of music, the unexpected surprises us. The unfamiliar enters our reality, and surprises us with something that we cannot even describe. At the same time, we savor the beauty of this music that arrives from unknown artists.

The band, I See Hawks In L.A., is delightful surprise. Curiously enough, they are indirectly well known in certain circles. Let me explain: everyone who has seen the San Miguel beer commercial (where there is a band playing at a highway honky-tonk joint in front of a very bored audience) has seen the band. In the commercial, the audience perks up when the San Miguel beers enter the scene. Suddenly, the audience is inspired to get up and dance to El Paquito’s el Chocolatero. The band playing in front of the bored audience is I see Hawks in L.A.

A strange way to be introduced to this band. The band was formed in 1999 in Los Angeles by Rob Waller and Lacques brothers Paul and Anthony, so they already carry a lot of experience and history on their backs. They have produced 3 CDs: I See Hawks in L.A. (on the already defunct Ethic label in 2001), Grapevine (on Western Seeds Records in 2004) and the last and magnificent California Country (in 2006 also from Western Seeds Records). They have proven that the old fashioned sounds of Country Rock from the 1960’s are not dead. Artists like Dillard and Clark, Flying Burrito Brothers, etc. have left a clear influence on the Hawks’ sound. Their music is seasoned with bits of folk music and brush strokes of Bluegrass. The result is that this band immediately reels you in.

What started as an entertaining idea over a couple of beers has become, with the passing of time, a way of life. Awarded Best Country Band in 2002 and 2003 by the prestigious L.A.Weekly publication, the band has captured a devoted fan base in Los Angeles. In a region such as California, where film is one of the principal industries, the band has been selected to compose the soundtrack for a number of documentaries, movies and T.V. shows, in addition to solidifying their spot on the American Sound charts with their second CD, Grapevine, becoming very well known in the area.

Back to the magnificent California Country, by far their best work; work that propelled them to became known outside of the limits of California. Most of the songs are written by Robert Waller and Paul Lacques (both perform duties on guitar and dobro, vocals and production), Dave Zirbel plays steel, Cody Bryant on banjo and Rick Shea on mandolin and acoustic guitar, along with the collaboration of the legendary Chris Hillman on mandolin. The final product does not disappoint.

Motorcycle Mama, Raised by Hippies and California Country are examples of the Hawks knowledge of medium tempo seasoned with slow tempo and magnificently demonstrated on Midnight Orlando (my favorite song on the disc) or the precious Take My Rest and Hard Times? ( the latter a prime example of the influence of the hit single Me and Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson).

In August, 2006 they will tour in the United Kingdom. What a joy it would be to hear this band there, this band that comes from the depths of the unknown, without any promotional support, but, little by little, and armed only with their vast quality and style, they will arrive to catch a little bit of stardom. They are obviously fixed in the charts of American Sound, but no one thinks they can enter the official lists and orthodoxies governed by Music City.

I See Hawks in L.A. is a band that gives us hope and confirms our faith in the genre of Country Music, a genre more alive today than ever.

Review from Holland:

Wat begon als een flauwekulbandje om muziek te maken op de veranda, eindigt (voorlopig) als een hooggenoteerde act in de US countrylijsten. Een komische groepsnaam van een humoristisch annex sarcastisch gezelschap dat op hun 3de album California Country zo ongeveer het hele countryspectrum – van traditioneel tot alternatief- behandelt. De belangrijkste leden van I See Hawks In L.A. zijn Rob Waller (leadzang, akoestische gitaar) en Paul Lacques (gitaren, lapsteel, Dobro en 2de stem) die – op één nummer na – alles samen componeerden. Beiden zorgden voor een melodierijke stevige rocksound dat in veel gevallen de basis vormt voor de 13 nummers. En ook de teksten mogen niet onvermeld blijven, want die vertellen quasi grappig over van alles en nog wat. Luister bijvoorbeeld naar opener Motorcycle Mama (helemaal klaar voor een lekker ritje, maar dan weigert de motor dienst) of naar het bijtende Slash From Guns N’Roses met heuse Slash- venijnige gitaarsolo. Ook ervaringen met Californië, Disney/Orlanda, de romance in Houston, the summer of love in Raised By Hippies, het gouden meisje of cannabisgenot in Barrier Reef, werden spitsvondig opgetekend en ouderwets goed muzikaal vormgegeven. Een handvol muzikanten droegen aan de opnames een steentje bij met, als meest bekenden, oudgediende snarenspelers Rick Shea en Chris Hillman. Boven op dit alles moet dan nog de kleurrijke meerstemmige samenzang vermeld worden en dan zijn alle relevanties over het mooie California Country genoemd. Voor een hoge verkoopverwachting zie ik echter veel beren op de weg in ons kikkerland.

— Huub Thomassen, Real Roots Cafe, Holland

GOOGLE Translation:

What started as a rubbish band make music on the veranda, finishes (provisionally) as hooggenoteerde act in the US countrylijsten. A comic group name of humoristic annex sarcastic gezelschap that on their 3rd album California Country this way approximately the complete countryspectrum – of traditionally to alternative treats. The most important members of I See Hawks in L.A. to be Rob Waller (leadzang, acoustic jet ear) and Paul Lacques (jet ears, rag stalk, Dobro and 2nd voice) that – on one number after – together composed everything. Both ensured melodierijke firm rocksound that in many cases the basis form the 13 numbers. And also the texts cannot remain unmentioned, because those tell seeming funny of everything and still what. Lustre for example to more open Motorcycle mummy (entirely ready for nice ritje, but then) or to the caustic Slash From Guns N Roses with heuse Slash- refuse service to the engine virulent gitaarsolo. Also experiences with California, Disney/Orlanda, the romance in Houston, the summer or love in Raised By Hippies, reef gouden the little girl or cannabisgenot in Barrier, clever were noted down and old-fashioned well musical were formed. Hand-full muzikanten contributed a steentje to the prerecordings with, as most acquaintances, oudgediende snarenspelers Rick Shea and Chris Hillman. On top of all this then and then its all relevances still the coloured polyphonic samenzang mentioned concerning the beautiful California Country must become called. For a high sale expectation to see I however much roaring on the way in our frog country.



by Doug Miller

The cover of I See Hawks in L.A.’s latest album, “California Country,” provides appropriate art for the beautifully baffling topography of a state where millions upon millions still rush in search of their versions of gold.

It befits the “progress” that has led us to 2006: A sad and lonely gas station in the middle of the night, perhaps right off the I-5 corridor, with a cool wind blowing from the desert through the valley and out to the rows of McMansions overlooking the chilly Pacific.

When asked to describe the message of the album, Paul Lacques, the Los Angeles-based country rock band’s co-founder and multi-instrumentalist, recalls a recent trip near his boyhood home in Southern California’s high desert.



October 11, fall of the west 2006

Western Beat on at Highland Grounds (on Highland, of course, just north of Melrose, and just west of an alley where a homeless man has been defying death for years by sleeping next to a fence inches from late night DUI drivers rolling past) has been happening once a month for fifteen years.Tonight Bliss is the gracious host (check out her invaluable guide to local roots music of all styles at americanarootsla.net), and her good vibe, as usual, permeates the room. L.A.’s finest alt roots country acts get 20 minutes each, and a very attentive crowd cheers, surrounding the stage. The Hawks lurk in a corner settling up the last of summer tour money, nursing their Makers Marks. “Good pour,” notes Rob, and indeed it is a generous shot of amber liquid in the glass. “Big Whiskey,” we decide, is a good alternate name for the good pour.

Clair Holley and Rob Seals precede the Hawks, and they are a masterful duo, Clair’s super pro picking and velvet voice filled out by Rob’s ace solos, which the crowd digs. The Hawks play electric sans Shawn, who’s out whoring, backing up a San Bernardino welder at a Moose lodge in Idlewild, playing Elvis and Toby Keith songs. The Hawks do no Elvis, but play their eponymous theme, A Dog Can Break Your Heart Too, Carbon Dated Love, and Libre Road. No country rock tunes, and it feels somber and great. The crowd seems to dig it much. Thank you Bliss, for who you are and what you do.


October 2 ’06

Paul L and wife Victoria, who joined the Hawks in Chicago, are driving back to the Windy City to visit Victoria’s old haunts. They stop for a Dinkeytown (Minneapolis, early haunt of pre-self invented Bob Dylan) breakfast at Al’s, which is just as delicious as it was on the Hawks previous visit, a long narrow womb with just a counter and a brilliant fry cook. Eggs Jose, a peak of breakfast experience. They wander back roads to the western bank of the Mississipi, which is showing off its Huck Finn wide majesty and fall colors, on an eerily warm Indian Summer day. Lazy, in haze, to end of day.East towards Madison, and into a towering and glowering black sky, and as the sun drops big lightning fills the horizons. Big hailstones fall, and traffic on the Interstate stops–these things could break windshields. On and off downpours into Chicago, where it really cuts loose. Victoria’s old neighborhood is flooded, too bold drivers trying to push their cars out of street ponds, fire engines screaming in all directions. Pretty exciting. Victoria and Paul are the only customers in LaRosa’s Pizza on Dempster in Evanston (or are we in Skokie?). This is the real Chicago pizza, not deep dish, but very thin crust, beats L.A.’s best by a mile. The owner entertains by mocking his delivery men, who have both gotten lost and then stuck in flood waters.
At the same time, Paul M is trying to get comfy on a bench at Chicago O’Hare airport. His flight to Omaha to visit son Scott has been canceled by the mad storm. Shawn and Rob are home. As will be the two Pauls and Victoria soon enough.


October 1 in the year of farewell to habeas corpus 2006

As we cross into Minnesota we honk the horn in celebration as we always do when crossing a frontier. But RW’s heart is conflicted as it always is when landing in the state where he was born. Minnesota. It looks like home. The air smells like home. The fall weather as is a familiar is it could possibly be. But a Minnesota homecoming is never a purely happy experience for RW. Haunting would be a better description. But as we push onward towards the Cities, jacked up on pie, with time to spare until our gig, things are pretty mellow. The dusk air is unusually warm for the first day of October. We aim the rental minivan for the 400 Bar, Dinkytown adjacent, backed up against the University. We load in and find the “dressing room,” a musty basement below the stage bearing graffiti from generations of Twin Cities rock shows. This place has the funk.

Things are looking pretty sleepy even for a Sunday night as we approach gig time The most activity is going on at the Muslim bakery next door to the club. It’s Ramadan and the sun has set so folks are coming out to eat and socialize, in caftans and caps, women in full veil. There’s no “Clash of Civilizations” going on here. The Minnesota Muslims are cheerful and welcoming. RW hangs in the parking lot with cousin Ben and his girlfriend Carolina. Old friend Jim and wife Katherine pull up. Dave Cox of Rochester, MN even shows up for a surprise. Cousins-in-law Alix and Caulder roll in with their spouses. Dennis P, Hawks’ counselor/enforcer/executive producer lingers in the shadows. Yes, there’s some fine folks here in Minnesota.

The 400 Bar is as bare bones as a rock club can be, but as the lights dim for downbeat, it’s suddenly atmospheric. The club hits a respectable threshold of attendees as the Hawks take the stage. It’s a reflective set with moments of rockness closing on a downbeat Midwestern version of “Houseboat.” Hiawatha, I hardly knew ya. Kid Dakota follows with a power duo–nice electric guitar work and tunes that are long odysseys, a pre-White Stripes White Stripes–but instead of a wraithlike female drummer with tentative command over the kit, a monster lurks, hunched over the drums, black hair dangling in his downturned face, filled with the spirit of Baker and Bonham, with some DeJohnette elbowing in amidst the thunder, some dainty cymbal work in the quiet interludes between merciless pounding. Ian Prince is his name, and he’s a rock drummer.

The Hawks slip away into the night, bound for different destinations.


Madison to Minnesota on this late September day is a textbook study in fall beauty. The woods redden and yellowen as we roll north and west on I-94. Dead corn stalks wither among the green fields. All is bucolic, with a few jarring intrusions–giant indoor water sports empires with family lodges and Ralph Lauren and Nike outlet stores that sprout like spores.

We’re sixteen miles from Osseo, WI, tiny town in the woods, home of the Norske Nook, pie restaurant extraordinaire and hotbed of Norse American ethnicity. Shawn Nourse is particularly excited and keeps calling out from the far back seat, “How far to the Nook? Do you think we missed it?” Oh no, Shawn. We have not missed it.*Minutes later we’re knee deep in pie. Apple pie, blueberry pie, and even Shawn’s chocolate mint pie — one bite of which could throw a healthy grown man into a diabetic coma. Thankfully, Shawn is not a healthy grown man. As the sugar takes hold the cute young and older waitresses seem to dance around the tables, floating through the air with de-caf coffee pots and carafes of ice water. Dressed in traditional Swedish gowns, they take on the form of Scandinavian Angels in this Pie Heaven.

As we resume our drive westward toward Rob’s home state, Shawn peacefully snoring in the back seat, the sun beats us to the horizon, a long and complex sunset, like a Speyside single malt from a cherry cask (sorry, Scotland casts a long psychic shadow). We approach the Mississippi in shadow.*Shawn’s Norseness is of undetermined degree; he’s more Irish than anything else, some believe.


September 30 06

The Old Town School of Folk Music is housed in a converted public library next to a beautiful park in a quaint and long established Chicago neighborhood of tree-lined streets and corner pubs. The auditorium is in the shape of a half circle. Above the stage is an original WPA mural representing Man, Industry, Agriculture and Learning. It’s a gorgeous room with high ceilings and tall balcony. It’s reminiscent of a Frank Lloyd Wright Unitarian Church. We unload and breeze through a near perfect sound check. This is a rare pleasure we all savor: a knowledgeable and tasteful sound man, high quality mics, a great sounding room. Tonight will be fun. We slip away to a nearby Mexican restaurant recommended by the sound man. It’s homey and quick and delicious. It’s no Red Iguana Café but it’s quite good, especially for those who skipped breakfast and haven’t eaten all day. We wolf our food and get back to the gig with about 15 minutes to spare.

The first set starts promptly at 7:05 just as they printed on the schedule. This is place is super organized. There’s even a big clock on the floor by the monitors to keep the band honest. The show is great. We’re all acoustic with Shawn playing his trademark ultra sensitive backup, wisk brooms on snare drum. It’s wonderful to hear the vocals so clearly and the audience is super appreciative. It’s a full house of 400 souls and they seem to like these new sounds out of California. Chris Hillman and ace guitarist Larry Park run through a dazzling series of tunes from Chris’s epochs: Byrds, Burrito Brothers, the under-heralded Manassas, Desert Rose, and solo. This guy wrote or co-wrote “Sin City,” “Wheels,” “It Doesn’t Matter,” and hearing these songs from the Country Rock Canon straight from the horse’s mouth is more than a little thrilling.

Did we mention that we’re having fun? The Hawks close out the night, and the late night crowd is smaller, and somehow mysterious peppered with Coles regulars, our good old (young) friends whooping and hollering: “Yeah, Paul Marshall!” ritual cry is raised, to our hometown amusement. We say farewell to Chris and Larry, to our Coles friends, and we hit the road, late night laborious drive down one lane of under construction highway to Madison, Wisconsin. We arrive bleary eyed at the outer Madison home of Rob’s in-laws, the Williamses, music and art aficionados with comfy beds. Good sleep, good breakfast and conversation with Jane and Elliot, and we’re off for Minneapolis.