With the February 2012 release of “New Kind Of Lonely,” their sixth CD, I See Hawks In L.A. wade deeper into the river of the Southern California folk and country rock tradition. The early Hawks albums tweaked the genre. Their later releases seem to redefine it.
Known for their psychedelic electric layering over country and folk music forms, the Hawks have gone back to basics on “New Kind of Lonely,” cutting 13 songs on acoustic guitars and upright and electric bass, standing in a circle around some nice German microphones. Overdubs of the trademark Hawks vocal harmonies, some dobro, and Gabe Witcher’s stellar fiddle complete the sparse, haunting sound.
The Hawks have been known for their lyrical celebrations of earth and its imperiled ecosphere, odes to the endless highway, and withering social commentary, but on this CD death and loss, in very personal terms, weave into almost every song, even the hard charging barn dance numbers.
In reaching back to pre-electric traditions, the Hawks seem to have tapped into the mortality that looms in the work of Hank Williams, The Stanley Brothers, and the Carter Family, far from the feel-good suburbiana of today’s Nashville songwriting. Dark times do need some kind of acknowledgement. I See Hawks In L.A. have taken this on.
I See Hawks In L.A. will release “New Kind Of Lonely” in February with shows at McCabes and other favorite haunts, a tour of the Carolinas and Tennessee in May, and wherever the road takes them this summer.
Formed in 1999 by Rob Waller and brothers Paul and Anthony Lacques during a philosophical discussion and rock throwing session on an East Mojave desert trek, I See Hawks In L.A. first gathered on the front porch in Echo Park, drank whiskey and wrote their first batch of songs and then sought advice from local country rock guru David Jackson, bassist with John Denver, Dillard and Clark, and EmmyLou Harris.
Jackson promptly joined the Hawks for their eponymous recording, featuring legendary fiddler Brantley Kearns (Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin, Hazel Dickens). The CD established the Hawks signature sound: high lonesome three part harmonies, innovative telecaster and steel or unadorned acoustic arrangements, with lyrics musing on mortality, whales, and the geography of pre-apocalyptic L.A.
ISHILA received rave reviews, made the F.A.R. Alternative Country Chart, and continues to get regular airplay. The Hawks quickly rose to the top of heap in the brand new Los Angeles alternative country scene. Shows all over SoCal garnered the Hawks L.A. Weekly Best Country Artist awards in 2002 and 2003.
Bassist/vocalist Paul Marshall (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Hank Thompson, Rose Maddox) threw in with the Hawks after sitting in at Ronnie Mack’s Barndance in Burbank. When brother Anthony left to pursue documentary film making, drummer Shawn Nourse (Dwight Yoakam, James Intveld) signed on for a trip to SXSW and played with the band for eight years.
The Hawks’ second CD, “Grapevine,” was released on the summer solstice 2004, and immediately went to #1 on the F.A.R. Chart, lingered in the Americana Chart’s top 100 for months, and hit #2 on XM Radio’s X Country station. Stellar reviews and a national audience followed the Hawks 28 city Summer ’04 tour, from a state prison in Vermont to a Mississippi roadhouse to the Cactus Cafe and KUT’s Eklektikos in Austin, to Hempfest in Seattle.
The Hawks released their third CD, “California Country,” in June 2006, with guest spots from Chris Hillman, Rick Shea, Cody Bryant, Danny McGough, Tommy Funderburk, and other SoCal roots brethren. Tackling subjects like despair in Disney World, blackjack in Jackpot, hippie parenting, donkeys, and Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia, “California Country” brought more bluegrass, Phase 90 country psychedelia, and steel driven honky tonk to the Hawks sonic empire (See reviews page).
That summer the Hawks hit the road with Tony Gilkyson and Kip Boardman for a 57 show tour of the U.S., England, and Scotland: thirty states, two currencies, many varieties of local whiskey, including highlands single malts and North Carolina moonshine, not a lot of sleep, and too much fun. Highlights include the Belladrum Festival with peat fires and teepees near Inverness, Scotland; a Vermont barn dance; an outdoor festival near Yellowstone and Seattle’s Hempfest; and Joe’s Pub in NYC. The mid-oughts saw the band embraced by many of their roots country predecessors, billed frequently across the country with Lucinda Williams, Dave Alvin, Peter Case, Bernie Leadon, Chris Hillman and Herb Petersen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
In March ’08 the Hawks cut their 4th CD “Hallowed Ground,” with stellar guest spots from fiddlers Gabe Witcher and Dave Markowitz, pedal steeler Dave Zirbel, acoustic guitar from Rick Shea, and accordionist/pianist Richie Lawrence. “Hallowed Ground” was released in May to rave reviews, and hit #1 on the Freeform American Roots radio chart, hovering in the top 10 for four months, and hitting #4 on the Euro Americana Chart.
The Hawks had a green and grand tour of Northern Ireland and Norway in August ’08. In fall ’08 the Hawks’ upbeat paean to married life “Hallowed Ground” was music in a particularly morbid and bloody scene in “True Blood” on HBO (we’re still not sure how we feel about this).
Spring 2010 brought the release of “Shoulda Been Gold” on American Beat records, an ironically titled compilation of the best of the CDs, early unreleased recordings, and some brand new songs, bringing in the usual critical praise (see reviews page). “New Kind Of Lonely” comes in right on time–I See Hawks In L.A. by fate or mysterious internal rhythm seem to put out a CD every other year since their first release.
The Hawks can be frequently spotted in their SoCal native habitats: The Grand Old Echo in our own Echo Park, McCabes, outdoor Grand Performances in downtown Los Angeles, The Cinema Bar in Culver City, Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance, Pappy and Harriets and Gramfest in the high desert, and Ben Vaughn’s Wonder Valley Music Fest at the Palms bar, even further east of nowhere; and at acoustic house concerts, and any dive that will take them, from Seattle to San Diego, and all the Sans and Santas in between.