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To say that I See Hawks in L.A. traipse down a going-their-own-way path through that old folky Americana and classic California country rock thing doesn’t quite begin to describe the sheer scope of this band’s wiiiide-open vision. The short version is, they’re adding much-needed musical and lyrical complexity to the old forms, blending and stretching both the emotional and sonic terrain to thrillingly new and unfamiliar points beyond. Hear it for y’self to best effect yet on the band’s new Mystery Drug, another wickedly surreal blast of psychedelicized country and rock and poetic honkytonk chops courtesy band founders Rob Waller and Paul and Anthony Lacques (sensational instrumentalists all), along with a cred-heavy bunch of guest players who’ve plied their wares with the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris and Hazel & Alice.
— By John Payne
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by Shawn Underwood in Alt-Country, Americana, Country, Reviews
The bright orange celestial flame that starts out in Santa Monica so clear and defining of Southern California becomes a dull rust glaring off the mix of smog and sooty bumpers by the time you get to San Bernardino. While the lucky few stroll with the kids and dog through the manicured streets of Pali, the vast majority of Angelenos are commuting to the weekend. Escape means a liquor soaked Saturday night at the craps table in Sin City or 2 1/2 days with the family in an overpriced Lake rental last remodeled in 1982, wondering what happened to the dream. If the Eagles in their Hotel California heyday represented the picture everyone believed, I See Hawks In L.A document the reality of the 99%, set to a soundtrack of weeping guitars and three part harmonies.
Their seventh album, Mystery Drug, follows a theme they’re adept at producing. It’s a mix of reality TV stories culled from their own lives and elevated love songs imbued with a thread of melancholy. In the former category the winner on this record is no doubt We Could All Be In Laughlin Tonight. If you ever wanted to know the story of how a musician pays his dues, here it is in 4 minutes and 8 seconds. There’s also Rock ‘n’ Roll Cymbal From the Seventies that captures the mindset of collectors everywhere. And I have to give a shout out to my wife’s new favorite song, Stop Driving Like An Asshole: “you’re an accident waiting to happen/a flipped over SUV/on the 405 at 6 o’clock/your carcass on TV”.
In the latter category is Yesterday’s Coffee, a bittersweet melody about getting to the point where you just hope “good enough” will bring her back. If You Remind Me is a love story that starts with kids on a bike and goes a lifetime to the point when love and friendship is indistinguishable. The opening cut, Oklahoma’s Going Dry isn’t a love song in the traditional sense, but rather one of our ancestors loving what we’ve now destroyed.
The Hawks are an L.A. country rock band, in an era that doesn’t have many of those left. You can argue country rock started in the 70′s with the hippies in the canyons west of Los Angeles high on nature and homegrown weed. Today it’s more aligned with a struggling middle class in the eastern suburbs where meth is the cheapest option. But we’re an irrepressible lot and we take our victories where we find them. I See Hawks In L.A. seem to know that, and with their harmonies and story-telling it’s easy to listen to a few of the tunes on Mystery Drug and find yourself with a nice little high.
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by John Collison
I See Hawks in LA’s newest release Mystery Drug is an outstanding collection of songs continuing the veteran Los Angeles group’s brand of traditional country music. Thirteen tunes explore urban, rural and personal themes that capture Southern California’scontradicting cultures and landscapes. Mystery Drug takes effect within the first three notes of the album’s opening track Oklahoma’s Going Dry; Rob Waller’s warm, comforting voice and Rick Shea’s pedal steel guitar ease the mind and comfort the soul. I See Hawks’ seventh release marks a return to electric music after 2012’s acoustic New Kind of Lonely. Waller’s and Paul Lacques’ blend of acoustic and electric guitars and harmonies are seamless, creating rich sonic textures adorned with pedal steel and accordion. If You Remind Me, Mystery Drug and Yesterday’s Coffee are introspective reaches into the psyche of love, acceptance and existence. Beauty of the Better States, Rock and Roll Cymbal From the Seventies and My Local Merchants are dedicated rockers. The latter song hints that I See Hawks and Mystery Drug could be a co-op with no less than nine musicians, including Lacques’ brother Anthony and wife Victoria Jacobs, complementing the band’s core membership of Waller, Lacques and veteran bassist Paul Marshall (Strawberry Alarm Clock). Mystery Drug elicits a chortle withStop Driving Like an Asshole, a ditty that takes karmic joy in the accident of a speeding SUV- “And the angels did sing: sha la la la, he drove like an asshole.” This song is the frosting on this album’s cake. Mystery Drug is no mystery; it is the soulfulness of a veteran band performing their finest music.
I See Hawks in LA recently returned from an 8-week tour of Europe and a string of shows along the west coast. They will perform at McCabe’s Guitar shop on Sunday, August 18 as part of a release party for Mystery Drug. If you are fan of roots, traditional country, or Flying Burrito Brothers/Graham Parsons, you should not miss this show.
Mystery Drug is available on itunes and directly from the I See Hawks in LA website. McCabe’s Guitar Shop is located at 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405