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Reviewed by Jim Hynes

This is the storied, rather unheralded band I See Hawks in LA’s first release since 2013’s “Mystery Drug.” “Live and Never Learn” continues the legacy of a band that’s been together for almost two decades now. They channel Gram Parsons, New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Byrds/Burritos into their singular brand of psychedelic country rock with the superb lead vocals of Rob Waller, capable players in the core lineup as well as guests. Among the guests are: Dave Zirbel (Commander Cody) on pedal steel, Dave Markowitz on fiddle and Richie Lawrence on accordion and piano. Together, they flush out a laid-back hippy vibe, the hallmark of ISHILA’s sound.

Emerging from a string of family deaths, California wild fires and various struggles, the band found some solace in finally being able to record again. The songwriting team of Rob Waller and Paul Jacques receives contributions from bassist Paul Marshall and drummer Victoria Jacobs on this outing. Members of Old Californio deliver “King of the Rosemead Boogie” and via email form Peter Davies of the U.K.’s Good Intentions we have “White Cross” and “Singing in the Wind.” The latter takes us to the shores of Northern Ireland. Jacobs sings on her psychedelic folk oriented “Spinning” and recounts a tragic tale from the winter on Lake Michigan in “My Parka Saved Me.”

“Last Man in Tujunga” is native territory as the story unfolds about a breakup conversation over a cell phone as the flames from a fire draw nearer. Although the song was written years ago, it is frighteningly timely as Marshall was forced to evacuate his home in the recent fires twice – lyrically stated as “almost out of minutes” as the “flames were licking at the gates.”

The band has long been noted for its sense of humor which we hear on the self-pitying “Poour Me,” their requisite ode to weed in “Stoned with Melissa” and their interest in conservation with “Planet Earth” and “Ballad for the Trees.” Markowitz’s fiddle and Lawrence’s accordion drive both “Isolation Mountains” and “Tearing Me in Two,” both outstanding tracks.

I See Hawks in LA are consistent with terrific story songs and solid musicianship. After the hiatus, they sound as good as ever, maybe even a little better

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September 11, 2001 … a day that none of us will soon forget. It was also the day when I See Hawks in L.A. released their eponymous debut to the world and immediately conquered the hearts of everyone who liked roots music. The fact that Dave Alvin took part in it was an argument to open many doors, just like the presence of fiddler Brantley Kearns: a band that gets that ready at its debut, which is going to follow as a matter of course and that’s what we did, certainly when they also brought Chris Hillmann Cody Bryant and Rick Shea into the studio for “California Country”.

Over the years the group expanded and today you have as base the four Rob Waller (guitar and lead vocals, Paul Lacques (guitar, lap steel and vocals), Paul Marshall (bass and vocals) and Victoria Jacobs (drums, guitar and vocals), which is complemented with Richie Lawrence (accordion and piano), Dave Markowitz (fiddle), Danny McGough (keys) and Dave Zirbel (pedal steel guitar) on four tracks, four vocalists and three songwriters in the band. is a great luxury and that shows once again on this first new CD in over five years: most of the songs come from the pins of the tandem Waller / Lacques, but drummer Victoria Jacobs also contributes with her “Spinning”, a wonderful piece of psychedelic folk and the story behind her “My Parka Saved Me”: she speaks the story and the other band members make it a great country rock song, larded with the most fantastic doo-wop background vocals and a Hammond party w we are very quiet of you.

Just like on their previous records, the Hawks again have the necessary attention for nature (“Planet Earth” and “Ballad for the Trees”), but where this album is mainly distinguished from earlier work – besides the fact that there is a Striking a couple of times and becoming boogie-d (“King if the Rosemead Boogie” tears away quite a bit) – the conclusion that the Hawks have been able to process the far-reaching events that they experienced. The five years between the previous record and this new one, after all, were the time in which Rob Waller lost his mother to cancer and Paul Lacque even lost both his parents. Most of the songs on this album were written in those days of those events and you can hear that.

The quality of the Hawks songs is top class as ever, but the effect – even the mixing is excellent – and the orchestration is nowhere less than sublime. That is probably best expressed in “White Cross” and “Singing in the Wind”. , two songs, that Waller and Lacques wrote together with UK’er Peter Davies, of The Good Intentions and in “The Last Man in Tujunga”, a story about a relationship that is broken by phone at the moment the forest fires keep on come closer. The fact that Bassist Paul Marshall had to evacuate his house twice during last year’s forest fires adds an extra cachet to this impressive and rocking song.

The Hawks will gradually be tired of the comparison with The Eagles, but you can not ignore them: these gentlemen belong in the line that is led by that band and that the co-country rock kept for eternity, although they may part also have a label “approved by Dave Alvin” on the cover. This album is great: watch the specialized charts next month: they will score very high, for sure!

(Dani Heyvaert)

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