≡ Menu

May 2012


Uncut May 21, 2012
Counterpunch April 8, 2012
Los Angeles Beat April 9, 2012
PopMatters April 11, 2012
RoughstockApril 12, 2012
Country Standard Time April 4, 2012
Music New Nashville April 3, 2012
The California Report March 25, 2012
Bluegrass Special March 2012
L.A. Record March 14, 2012
Rhapsody March 2012
SPIN March 9, 2012
LA Weekly March 5, 2012
BLURT February 29, 2012
Mike Finklestein February 28, 2012
Lone Star Music March/April 2012
MOJO June 2012
No Depression March 26, 2012
Turnstyled and Junkpiled February 22, 2012
Turnstyled and Junkpiled/Sin City Spotlight April 10, 2012
Twangville March 2, 2012
Michael Doherty March 2, 2012
Blog Critics March 5, 2012
Santa Monica Patch March 2, 2012



A New Kind of Lonely
Bohemian Hoedown

link to full article

Imagine yourself in a small cabin in the mountains north of Santa Cruz, California. There’s a small fire burning in the stone fireplace just warm enough to burn away the Pacific fog creeping through the space underneath the door.  People are gathered in the main room. Some are tuning their instruments, others are twisting up a reefer or two and still others are pouring pints of home brew. Everybody gets settled and the picking begins.

That cabin, that scene, is where the latest disc from the California band I See Hawks In LA takes me.  This CD, titled A New Kind of Lonely, is their fifth release (sixth if you include their “hits” collection) and, in a departure from their other work, is performed solely with acoustic instruments.  Foregoing their electric guitars and pedal steel, I See Hawks In LA have turned in a solid piece of work that simultaneously enhances and expands their singularly exquisite sound.

Not quite country, not quite rock, I See Hawks In LA create music that might best be described as a twenty- first century manifestation of that high lonesome sound first introduced to the world by Bill Monroe and other bluegrass pioneers.  This CD, given the fact of its entirely acoustic performances, emphasizes that link to the lonely hollers of Southern Appalachia that one hears in songs like “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Uncle Pen,” or “I’ll Fly Away.”  The difference lies in the song’s topics.  Instead of Kentucky, Jesus, or moonshine, New Kind of Lonely includes songs about Austin, the Grateful Dead, and weed.  Unlike previous releases, the songs here tend toward more personal situations; personal situations that represent a life outside the mainstream.  After opening with a song titled “Bohemian Highway” the listener travels this highway while entertained with tales from the outlands of California’s bohemia.  It is a bohemia birthed in the hippie/freak culture of the 1960s and 1970s and still celebrated in song, literature and some folks’ daily lives.  Like the best fiction emerging from this metaphysical realm (Vineland by Pynchon, Already Dead: A California Gothic by Denis Johnson), there are also warnings of the dangers one might find in a culture that accepts drug use and drifting as aspects of its essence.

Certain vocalists are instantly recognizable.  One of those singers is the aforementioned Bill Monroe.  Others include Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Mahalia Jackson, Bonnie Raitt and Leonard Cohen, to name just a few. The vocals of I See Hawks In LA’s Rob Waller fall into this category.  The smoothness of his delivery (unlike Dylan or Young, whose singing is anything but smooth) does not muffle its sweetness or singularity. There are songs of joy and songs of warning.  Songs about wandering and songs about getting hitched.

The key to I See Hawks’ is their playing.  This acoustic masterpiece features plenty of incredibly adept, pleasing even achingly beautiful guitar playing.  There are not enough superlatives to describe it.  Indeed, it could stand on its own if the vocals did not exist.  When one adds the fiddle playing of Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers), the sound becomes sublime.   In the past, I have tried to summon musicians that I See Hawks In LA reminds me of.  While not an easy task because of their genuinely unique sound, Gram Parsons, New Riders of the Purple Sage and The Byrds have come into mind.  This release has reminded me of another.  Back in the 1970s there was a group that hailed from Kentucky and Arizona called Goose Creek Symphony (they returned in the 1990s and still perform).  Their sound was a combination of rock music, clogging, horns, fiddle music and just plain awesome picking.  Every once in a while their music became something as celebratory as a group of old timers celebrating their latest batch of likker.  You feel so good; you just have to kick up something.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com


A small gem chock-full of true and heartfelt Americana.
by Steven Spoerl
11 April 2012

link to full article

I See Hawks in L.A. have established themselves by virtue of not only skill but also importance. They’re a fixation of Los Angeles and are making some of the most beautiful and well-crafted Americana of just about anyone. Very few artists can present Americana in its truest form, a melting pot of American traditional music, yet New Kind of Lonely is the perfect presentation of that understanding.

First and foremost, it’s all acoustic and was recorded live—in a circle, no less. That sort of home-spun vibe imbues the entirety of New Kind of Lonely and it’s hard not to be won over by the band’s commitment to that aesthetic, which is an unbelievably natural fit. That aesthetic acts as another one of New Kind of Lonely‘s many hard-won victories. I See Hawks in L.A. understand their roots to the fullest degree and do them all justice on every single track.

New Kind of Lonely introduces itself perfectly with “Bohemian Highway”, a mid-tempo number that’s wonderfully orchestrated with finger-picking arrangements to be envied and a campfire melody worthy of country classics. It also provides an insight to the mood and content of the record. New Kind of Lonely is largely a celebratory record in feel, yet the fixation with death and the darker aspects of humanity permeates the record. However, the two are balanced so artfully that it makes New Kind of Lonely a strange prairie home companion to Arcade Fire’s Funeral, which was the last record to become notable for accomplishing that
difficult feat.

“Dear Flash” and “The Spirit of Death” continue to demonstrate I See Hawks in L.A.‘s vice-grip on their pursuit of that down-home sound, with “The Spirit of Death” having a burst of exhilarating inspiration in its closing moments. At times, that down-home sound is so convincing that it recalls the works of a little-known backwoods theatre production that had small theatrical runs released to enormous acclaim in a remote region of Wisconsin. That small production company was called American Folklore Theatre and they held many of the same influences and debts that New Kind of Lonely owns and owes. That the two entities line up so seamlessly is
unsurprising, considering their respective pedigrees and tendencies. There’s skilled players in spades, content both humorous and human presented with a certain familial sense and admirable pluck. It’s extremely evident on standout track “I Fell in Love With the Greatful Dead” which recounts actual encounters members of I See Hawks have had with that legendary bands live show.

To attempt to describe the majority of these songs with in-depth precision would be doing a disservice to the freewheeling vibe New Kind of Lonely so effortlessly conjures and exudes. Every song on this record has one or two incredibly strong moments (see: the chorus in “Mary Austin Sky” or the melody in “Younger But Wiser”) but as wholes are individual masterpieces in miniature, true to form. “Hunger Mountain Breakdown” might be the hardest-hitting and fiercest track on this collection but unfortunately represents the point where New Kinds of Lonely‘s only fault is evident; it’s just too long. At nearly any point on the record, and even more certainly in a live setting, “Hunger Mountain Breakdown” would light everything on fire, from the hay to the barn to the logs that it’s easy to imagine these songs being played around.

The final two songs are both fine songs but suffer, only slightly, from the record’s length and their placement. While they do make sense as the closers in a long sequence with their soft end-of-the-night restraint, it’s clear that they also would’ve benefited from being a part of a shorter record. Taken on their own, they’re beautiful ruminations on love and loss (especially “Your Love is Going to Kill Me”) and would certainly bring a campfire, barn, or bar show to a satisfying close. Ultimately, that might be what New Kind of Lonely aims for; the complete story. The fact that they pull it off next to flawlessly even with the padded length is something worth celebrating and it’d be difficult to imagine anything better than the record itself as the soundtrack.

7 of 10 Stars


I See Duality In the Grooves
By David McGee

I See Hawks In L.A.
Western Seeds

Graceful, easygoing but meaty, the all-acoustic New Kind of Lonely, album six from the veteran I See Hawks In L.A., evokes the spirit of vintage Southern California folk and country–Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brothers–and adds a contemporary bluegrass flair. Now a trio of founding members Rob Waller (lead vocals, guitar) and Paul Lacques (guitar, dobro, vocals) and long-time bassist/vocalist Paul Marshall, ISHILA bolsters its lineup for this outing with the Punch Brothers’ Gabe Witcher on fiddle, Cliff Wagner on banjo, Richie Lawrence on accordion and Dave Raven on drums. As you might guess from songs with titles such as “New Kind of Lonely,” “Your Love Is Going to Kill Me” and “If You Lead I Will Follow,” the texture of personal, even intimate, relationships is in sharp focus here—including a relationship with the Grateful Dead in “I Fell in Love with the Grateful Dead,” almost five minutes of tribute to the way the fellows became enamored of the Dead’s music, message and culture set to a driving arrangement full of cascading guitar lines and fueled by Waller’s sturdy, folky tenor (surely yours truly is not the only listener who hears a touch of young Mike Nesmith in his phrasing and timbre).

This being I See Hawks In L.A., you expect the love songs to be cut from different cloth, and so it is. “Your Love is Going to Kill Me” encompasses much of what the band has been about in having the action unfold in a finely etched natural world among characters striving for a higher plateau while seeing the folly of all this with a wry sense of humor—“Thirty pages of Ulysses, that much closer to the day/when one of us is leaving and the other must remain,” begins the song and it continues: “Well the western sky reminds me of the time you went all fiery/from a moment’s hesitation at our wild and wicked ways/and it wasn’t just your beauty or your cosmic sense of duty or the dolphins in the gables on our fabled wedding day…” The graceful rhythm and sweet harmonies have an evocative western feel (you might even think Sons of the Pioneers at one point) as the pace picks up, surging inexorably to the title sentiment, by which point you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, seeing as how the singer seems pretty okay with the situation at hand—“our love is so good it’s exactly that bad,” Waller sings with cool equanimity: love is a battlefield, y’know. More inscrutable and heavily metaphorical—a cousin to Dawes’s “That Western Skyline,” in fact—the album closing meditation “If You Lead I Will Follow” might be interpreted as likening a love affair to a journey by wagon train into uncharted territory, where nature itself is both friend and nemesis; Waller strikes a stance as determined as it is weary (and wary, too), as Paul Lacques’s weeping dobro and Richie Lawrence’s mournful accordion function as despairing counterparts to Waller’s voals, but hope rises in the lovely close-harmonized choruses trumpeting the song title’s determined vow.

The band’s dark humor remains intact, and gets an especially memorable workout on two numbers. “Big Old Hypodermic Needle” seems a cheery, acoustic guitar-driven toe-tapper, but it happens to document two friends’ (“two sweet sisters,” as Waller sings) decision to OD together, “one last time for the memories/and the sunset turning gold,” a tragedy recounted by the fellow who “found them where they fell.” Moral of the story: “Comin’ home’s easy when you hear the angel bell.” Driven by Cliff Wagner’s hard charging banjo and further fueled by Gabe Witcher’s furious, circuitous fiddle solo, “Hunger Mountain Breakdown” is not a salute to some beloved peak but a contemplation of a suicidal leap from said peak. The duality permeating New Kind of Lonely keeps a listener on his toes, lest the Hawks’ world seem too straightforward; fittingly, the music’s southern Cal country lilt is deceptive—it sure sounds pretty, but dastardly things are going on around it. Bliss out at your own risk.


Link to Article

Since their eponymous debut a little over a decade ago, Cali-country revivalists I See Hawks released four more albums before this latest mosey into the sagebrush. Indeed, ISHILA records continue to provide a reliable index to the Southern California zeitgeist, as this fifth collection is more joyful than the high lonesome hallucinogens that dropped during the angst-ridden Noughties. SoCal, like most everywhere else in the USA, is now merely broke; and that bust-ass frame-of-mind, as anyone can tell you, makes for great country music. Indeed, “The Spirit of Death” flaunts joyfully at encroaching mortality, and a similar spirit of auto-cutthroat balladry can’t help but inform “Your Love is Going to Kill Me.” “I Fell in Love With the Grateful Dead” is a rework of “Raised by Hippies” off 2006’s California Country, but “Highland Park Serenade” is one of their most affecting tunes ever—a tender and dearly felt tribute to one more gently crumbling jewel box neighborhood. This town fairly brims with high-lonesome ghosts, and it’s good to have these fellows back to set them howling.

—Ron Garmon


I See Hawks in L.A.
By Mikael Wood

Longtime purveyors of what Gram Parsons called “cosmic American music,” I See Hawks in L.A. go all-acoustic for their latest, called New Kind of Lonely and due out March 6. It’s lovely, beautifully harmonized stuff (with some sweet fiddle action by Gabe Witcher of Punch Brothers), but what distinguishes the record from others by any number of history-conscious roots acts is the Hawks’ taste for the less-than-lovely, as reflected in the title track, where Rob Waller recounts the time “Randy went out, got wasted with the boys, chasing skirts and getting hurt”; later, he spins a tale in “Big Old Hypodermic Needle” you don’t need me to unravel. Tonight they’ll celebrate the album’s release amid the appropriately instrument-jammed environs of McCabe’s, with former Lone Justice/X dude Tony Gilkyson as support.

Rhapsody Top 10 Country Albums, March 2012

8. I See Hawks in L.A.
New Kind of Lonely
Song titles hint at a caosmic American sound, and the opening strains of “Bohemian Highway” confirm just that. I See Hawks in L.A. recorded New Kind of Lonely live in the studio, capturing a compelling, uncluttered sound; there’s plenty of breathing room for lush harmonies and dark, yet often humorous, lyrics. Tales of gentrification (“Highland Park Serenade”) sit next to wistful stories of the past (“I Fell in Love With the Grateful Dead”) and sallow salutes to death (“The Spirit of Death,” “Big Old Hypodermic Needle”) — all blooming under the gentle sway of guitars and their symmetrical singing. [L.R.]


link to article
You might think this trio hailed from a locale such as Amarillo, TX or Nashville, TN. Well, if you thought Bakersfield, CA you’d be close as these three joined forces in an Echo Park  (L.A.) living room over a decade ago.  Apparently longtime fans who cherish the band’s acoustic gigs can now rejoice as New Kind of Lonely is an all-acoustic record with 13 slices of genuine Americana straight from the heart. Guitarist Rob Waller handles the lead vocals, but the other two musketeers, guitarist/dobro player Paul Lacques and bassist Paul Marshall harmonize the dickens out of these songs (on this record the band adds a drummer as well as banjo, fiddle and accordion players).

The songs themselves create some magical imagery but heck, just listen to these songs titles:  ” I Fell in Love with the Grateful Dead”,  “Big Old Hypodermic Needle”, “Bohemian Highway”, “Hunger Mountain Breakdown” and “Your Love is Going to Kill Me.” If you think the band is like an antithesis of 70’s AOR drifters America (“Sister Golden Hair”) well, you may be right, just trade “Ventura Highway” in for one “Bohemian Highway’ and you’re all set. Sound fair?

They take their music seriously, but with a real looseness create a warmth (with no lack of humor) that a lot of alt country bands seem to lack.