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Americana UK reviews “Hawks with Good Intentions”

by Paul Kerr
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California’s I See Hawks In L.A. and Liverpool’s Good Intentions met and became friends at a house concert in California back in 2012. Since then, the bands have shared stages in the States and here in the UK and along the way they began writing some songs together, the first fruits of their joint effort displayed on the Hawks’ last album, ‘Live And Never Learn‘, which had two songs co-written with Peter Davies of Good Intentions. Bouncing emails and mp3 files across the Atlantic they eventually came up with the ten songs on display here, sections recorded in L.A. and Liverpool with each of the bands’ contributions stitched together so well that the join is never seen. As it says on the sleeve, “Gleaming technology serving acoustic guitars and down home harmonies.”

It’s primarily an acoustic album with drums on only one song and some spare lap and slide guitar from Paul Lacques present. Lead vocals are shared between Davies and the Hawks’ Rob Waller and Victoria Jacobs while the other member of Good Intentions, Gabrielle Monk, weighs in on backing vocals. As such, it’s a collection which is finely laidback as various guitars strum and harmonies float reminding one of the “wooden music” side of CSN&Y or the more blissed out moments of the good ole’ Grateful Dead along with a sprinkling of acts such as The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and Loggins & Messina. Writing in various permutations with Waller, Lacques and Jacobs, Davies has a hand in all but one song and it’s his voice which opens the album on ‘Blue Heaven‘, a sun dappled slice of nostalgia laden with harmonies and sly Dobro, the kind of song which could accompany faded home movies of flower children celebrating. Waller takes the reins for the following western themed ‘Things Like This‘, a taut Larry McMurtry like murder tale which skittles along like tumbleweed before Weller and Davies swap their contrasting lead vocals on ‘Rolling The Boxcars‘, a gambling song with the protagonists always on the losing end with the song delivered as if all were singing around a late night campfire.

Plenty to admire then in this opening triumvirate which showcases the strengths of both ends of this collaboration. But there’s much more to come as the combo accommodate the folkier side of Davies on the Tom Paxton like ‘Rambling Girl‘ (with The Punch Brothers’ Gabe Whitcher on fiddle) and then  allow Waller to deliver the excellent railroad chug of ‘Steel Rails‘. ‘White Cross‘, one of the songs which appeared on ‘Live And Never Learn‘, remains as sinewy as the original while ‘Flying Now‘ finds Davies down on his luck but ever hopeful on a song which recalls the late Ronnie Lane especially with its accordion accompaniment from Richie Lawrence. ‘Epiphany On Town Hall Square‘, while fitting well into its surroundings in terms of its delivery, is somewhat odd, bearing as it does, echoes of a Christmas carol in its setting but the closing ‘Will You Watch Over Me‘, the one song written solely by Lacques and Waller, is bang in the Hawks canon as it gently rolls along with rippling guitar accompaniment  invoking a greater spirit.

Collaborations can often be tricky affairs but it feels safe to say that on this occasion fans of either band will be satisfied by ‘Hawks With Good Intentions’. It simply  radiates good vibes as these transatlantic cousins find common cause.

Hands Across The Water

7/10

AMERICANA UK LIVE REVIEW: HAWKS LONDON SHOW AT THE GREEN NOTE

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I See Hawks In LA, The Green Note, London, 19th July 2018

Posted on July 23, 2018

I See Hawks In LA opened their extensive UK tour with this sold out performance at London’s Green Note, and were in fine form. Playing as a four piece and “acoustic” with Paul Lacques on lead guitar, Victoria Jacobs on snare drum and tiny cymbal, Rob Waller on guitar and lead vocals and Paul Marshall the one exception to the acoustic rule by playing electric bass. They began their first set with a song that really tells you all you need to know about I See Hawks In LA – ‘Raised by Hippies‘.

It’s a celebration of a woman who was born on an old school bus after the Summer Of Love, and who, despite going out into the world when older, is never broken down by the constraints of the world to abandon a faith in what’s important in life – people, love, caring.  Sounds heavy – but it isn’t; it’s beautifully crafted, like all I See Hawks In LA songs, there’s a common clinging to a world view that is about more than greed and spite. And if there’s something wrong with that then we’ll need a written counter-argument with diagrams. It’s not a naive song – Rob Waller acknowledges that the parents “did some things wrong” before adding “but they raised their children right / and they did it for a song“. It’s a sentiment that reappears on ‘Tearing me in too‘ which Rob wryly introduces as being about those feelings “when you’re out on the road playing music – but you miss your family, although sometimes you’re with your children and….you really want to be playing music.” The eternal dichotomy of dual loves. It’s a song, like many others, that is taken from the band’s new album ‘Live and Never Learn‘ – which is another excellent collection.

All through the set Paul Lacques adds wonderful guitar solos that lift lightly from the ground, whilst Paul Marshall keeps everything grounded with his discretely interjecting bass and Victoria Jacobs performs literal miracles of brushed drumming with her instrument – one can’t really raise a single snare to the heady heights of being a drum kit. Despite all this, there are occasional claims in the first set of moments of synchronised jet lag – the Hawks had only landed in the UK the day before – and these claims are repeated in the interval as the band hang-out and chat relaxedly with the audience. But if this is truly I See Hawks In LA slightly sub-par then no-one but the band could tell. The first set had slipped by in a dreamy flash, with a glorious ‘I Fell in Love with the Grateful Dead‘ closing it out. It’s a great song of a Dead-Head’s adventures, taking to the trail and following Gerry and the band across the States and on to Europe. It’s not nostalgia – it’s just the retelling of a great musical quest, vegetarian food and the bonds of friendship in a loose community.

There’s a similar feeling of a happy retelling on ‘Good andFoolish Times’ which jounces along like a battered vehicle driven just a little too fast down a dusty side road as Rob Waller sings “Didn’t we have some good times ? / some good and foolish times ? / Didn’t we have some good and foolish times ? / Didn’t we take some long rides / some long and winding rides?” and the band harmonise behind him.

The second set was geared a little more towards the higher tempo and rocky reaches of I See Hawks In LA output. ‘Humboldt‘ is a road trip for not strictly legal purposes song which pounds along down the freeways with Paul Laques’ guitar just burning higher and higher. If this was a fist-pumping audience then fists would have been pumped. There’s a swinging ‘Live and Never Learn‘ which beats along like a train down a track whilst pointing out how unlikely it is that unthinking and foolish behaviour will ever stop being foolish and unthinking. Ultimately the futility is self-deprecatingly spelt out: “every slight, every way I treated her unkind, every promise I knew I’d break, every friend looks the other way, every leap I never took”.

In the first set ‘California Country‘ had been virtually a description of the sound of I See Hawks In LA – there’s country in the mix but it’s really country influenced rock, steering tonight towards an acoustic set from that inspiring band The Grateful Dead. There’s the same kind of mix of lyrical wonder and the really small parts of life that are maybe the most important parts as well. It’s not, though, the totality of their sound – Paul Marshall took lead vocal duties for a straight country ballad ‘Truth is – you lied‘ whilst Rob and Victoria take call and response turns to tell the story of a bad car crash on the folky meets soul ‘My parka‘. This is a song that gets laughs – especially when Rob Waller’s fantasy that the liquor store owning drunk driver who hit Victoria Jacobs is struck with remorse and hands out free booze to her “all through high school.” This is slapped down with “hey Bob, that never happened.” This, though, is not the heart of the song, amusing as it is, but this is the true nugget: “my parents came to the Emergency Room and when they took my parka off chunks of glass fell out onto the floor / and my Dad burst into tears…and that’s when I knew he loved me.” Heart and family.

Wry humour, great music, unabashed joy of living, lovely harmony singing, foolishness, environmental concerns and the hazards of love – the upsides and the downsides of caring about someone. That’s what a couple of hours in the company of I See Hawks In LA is about. They have a long road ahead of them in July and August; it’s doubtful if they’ll reach the end with any T-Shirts or CDs left; they may even be a bit more battered – but triumphant as well. There is surely no better time to get out and see I See Hawks In LA.

Author: Jonathan Aird

Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan’s music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That’s not much to ask, is it?

COUNTRY STANDARD TIME REVIEWS “LIVE AND NEVER LEARN”

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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

ROOTSTIME (NETHERLANDS) REVIEW “LIVE AND NEVER LEARN”

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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)

Folk Words: ‘Live and Never Learn’ – I See Hawks In L.A. – on top form on all counts

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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

Rootsville Reviews “Live And Never Learn”

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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.

Americana Highways Song Premiere: I See Hawks In LA’s “Ballad For The Trees” Sings Praise To Nature

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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/

Rocking Magpie Reviews “Live And Never Learn”: A Rare Treat for the Ears and the Soul

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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/