May 2018

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The alternative folk/ country Americana world would be a darker place without I See Hawks In L.A. – it’s unlikely that anyone else could deliver their tight harmony vocals, skilled musicianship, inspired melodies and richly hooked, eminently memorable songs – and their latest outing ‘Live And Never learn’ is the band on top form on all counts.

Live and Never Learn album cover

The raw honestyremains, as do the songs that effortlessly touch those heart and soul parts of their listeners that consistently bring them closer to the depths of the messages.

The human problems that life throws up and that everyone faces from time to time weave their way through the lyrics, from the title track ‘Live And Never Learn’ through ‘White Cross’ to ‘Stoned With Melissa’ and ‘The Last Man in Tujunga’ there’s a visceral edge that quite simply pulls you into their songs. It’s inevitable that ‘favorites’ get a mention in any review – for me ‘Ballad For The Trees’ is up there, as is ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘The Isolation Mountains’.

Playing on ‘Live and Never learn’ are Rob Waller (lead vocal, acoustic guitar) Paul Laques (guitars, vocal, lap steel) Paul Marshall (bass, vocals) Victoria Jacobs (drums, vocal) with Richie Lawrence (accordion, piano) Dave Markowitz (fiddle) Danny McGough (organ, synth) and Dave Zirbel (pedal steel).

Website: www.iseehawks.com

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This ‘I See Hawks In L.A.’ is one of the most underrated bands in California. This Alt-country was founded in Los Angeles in 1999 by Rob Waller and the brothers Paul and Anthony Lacques. Their sound is characterized by harmony vocals and the playing of acoustic instruments and should not have been the ‘eagles’ these ‘I See Hawks In L.A.’ perhaps that world group. Of course we know them from their self-titled debut album from 1999 with Dave Alvin and Dwight Yoakam. The albums like ‘Shoulda Been Gold’ (2010) and ‘Hallowed Ground’ (2008) were also very popular. Regularly their songs land in the country charts and they were mentioned several times as ‘Best Country Artist’ in LA Weekly.

Their music is and remains always fascinating and honest and so we are glad that we can now listen to their latest album ‘Live and Never Learn’. Their previous ‘Mistery Drug’ is already 5 years old. On this new album we find 14 originals and they appeal to guest musicians like Richie Lawrence on accordion and piano, Dave Markowitz on fiddle, Danny McGough on organ and synthesizer and Dave Zirbel on pedal steel.

Most songs were written by the combination of Paul Lacques, who also produced, and Rob Waller. The daily problems in the lives of the various band members were an inspiration for writing new material. Numbers where the quality always comes to take the upper hand. Songs in which the humor of this ‘I See Hawks in L.A’ usually obscures the reality such as ‘My Parka Saved Me’ in which drummer Victoria Jacobs tells the true story of a car accident that she suffered as a teenager.

‘The Last Man in Tujunga’ is again the story when band member Paul Marshall had to evacuate his home during the Californian wildfire in 2017. ‘White Cross’ and ‘Singing in The Wind’ are songs that show the personification of these ‘Hawks’. Songs with high melodies. A bit like the Eagles did at the time that does not mean that you have this ‘I See Hawks In L.A.’ to identify with it.

‘King Of The Rosemead Boogie’ is the pepper and salt on this beautiful album, where they clearly choose the country-folk side with songs like ‘Poour Me’ and ‘The Isolation Mountains’. They end with the Americana flavored ‘Stop Me’, something they do not have to do for me.

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“Ballad For the Trees” is a premiere release from I See Hawks in LA’s forthcoming album Live and Never Learn, due for June 29.  I See Hawks in LA is Rob Waller, Paul Lacques, drummer Victoria Jacobs, and Paul Marshall on bass.  Several members of the band have struggled with heavy personal loss over the past couple of years.  So this album, in general, confronts and highlights these difficult themes lyrically, while providing first rate music to buoy us through the tough times.  “Ballad For The Trees” is a song from that project that pays homage to nature and the poignant struggle to guard our environment.  But more than that, it manages to gather up our emotions to recall our deep-seated need for solitude and contextualization within nature, a need that often goes unmet nowadays.  In this era of omnipresent technology,  they present us with an option: “here’s a song for the Acacia, here’s a song for the honeybees.”

Lacques has this to say about the song.

Ballad For The Trees (5:33) “A slowly unwinding Fleetwood Mac (yes) reminiscence, rocking lament on the massive distraction and distortion of our digital lives as our planet enters emergency time; but it’s very catchy. And who doesn’t love trees? Here’s a song for the Acacia. Perhaps it’s time to turn our faces away from our phones and the infinite reflections of our silly selves and look up to the tall quiet trees swaying wisely above.” —Paul Lacques of ISHILA

Give this track a listen, and then preorder the album, due out June 29th, herehttp://www.iseehawks.com/

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Live and Never Learn, the eighth album from these California Country rock ‘n’ rollers is a wonderful treat for both the ears and the soul. I’ve previously heard comparisons to that other west coast band, the Eagles, but I don’t hear it here. The Hawks are fearless where the Eagles take it easy, and their harmonies take more from doo-wop and bar-room country than, say CSN&Y. The Hawks could easily accomplish musically the Eagles sound, but they’re smarter than that, they take more chances, their sense of humor is near boundless. A case in point: The Eagles would never, could never, create such songs as “Ballad for the Trees,” “The Last Man in Tujunga,” or especially the wonderful, hilarious, and all-important “My Parka Saved Me,” which I’m going to go ahead and say is most likely the best song of 2018 so far. Seriously. We’ll come back to that in a moment, first, the rest of the album.

Novelty songs have long been a rock ‘n’ roll tradition. Remember “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll,” “Splish Splash,” or “Purple People Eater”? Yeah, novelty crap humor; but they rocked. This is important. “Wooly Bully” rocked. “I Put a Spell on You” rocked. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to accomplish. One wrong turn at Albuquerque and suddenly you’re in “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” or “The Chipmunk Song” territory. Humor in rock ‘n’ roll is important and vital. Otherwise everything is Pink Floyd and the National—fine bands yet not what you go after when you want a rollicking and fun trip. And humor is something the Hawks seem to have no short supply of, from the way Robert Waller’s vocal on “Last Man in Tujunga” rapidly descends on the word “collapsing,” stretching it out further than any fully sane singer would ever attempt—but it works, the song needs it to be effective—to the utter lack of any sense of irony on many of these songs. They play it straight, knowing full well how to milk the laughs with a poker face. Smart, humorous lyrics and quick asides from the band such as they way the charge into a single bar of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” right in the middle of “Tujunga” and then continue on as if nothing happened, or the way the pedal steel supports the vocal in “Poour Me,” adding more layers to this wonderful tale of woe.

On several of these songs the Hawks, with Rob Waller’s river bottom vocals and the band’s inherent quirkiness, are reminiscent of the Handsome Family, yet the Handsome Family never rocked this hard, especially on “Stoned with Melissa” which is a fast-paced rocker that starts out making you laugh but takes a sudden turn down a dark alley. Life’s not all fun and games and the Hawks know this, even if it gives them pause to wonder why at times. “Spinning” is dreamy Alt-psychedelia, while “King of the Rosemead Boogie” is a barn spinner of an uptempo blues, and the title song, “Live and Never Learn,” is smooth, smooth Country. The Hawks are all over the map, yet fully in sync, the songs never sounding forced or contrived.

And now we get to “My Parka Saved Me.” Every great album needs a song worthy of putting on repeat and this is the one. We start off with the band opening the door for the organ swells which bring us right in to a rather funny and also rather harrowing true story narrated by the band’s drummer, Victoria Jacobs, in a voice sublimely caught somewhere between the Mid-West and Valley Girl: She got high. She broke up with her boyfriend. She went for a drive down to the lake. The lake was frozen and there was lots of snow. Suddenly, a drunk driver hits her and she “spun like a donut! There was glass everywhere!” All this backed perfectly by the band in a sawdust floor bar-room band manner while a countrified doo-wop section plays the part of Greek chorus, repeating her story line by line in a perfect straight-man sort of way. No time for irony here, just the facts, ma’am. Jacobs’ story continues as she parries back and forth with the band as they break out and begin to embellish on her tale. “That’s not true!” she regales them, but they continue on unabated, facts and memories now distorting into one another as the song and story continues on with a catchy refrain and a wonderful keyboard backdrop, which works very much like Al Kooper’s organ on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” in that it percolates and bubbles throughout, creating even more interest, drawing the listener in.

This is an amazing song and indeed, album. All the disparate parts fit together wonderfully, telling a story that is tragic, comical, and all too true, in a way only a band as brilliant and as fearless as I See Hawks in L.A. can.

Review courtesy The American Magpie…..the Legendary Roy Peak.
Released June 29th 2018
http://www.iseehawks.com/

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PARIS MOVE REVIEWS “LIVE AND NEVER LEARN”

May 14, 2018

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HAWKS LAUNCH KICKSTARTER TO FUND 8TH ALBUM “LIVE AND NEVER LEARN”

May 1, 2018

Click here to be taken to the “Live and Never Learn” Kickstarter page 

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