Hawks News

In the Nest and On the Road

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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/

“Live And Never Learn” is one of those wonderful records that reveals itself in different ways with each passing listen.

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They have been famed, over the 17 years that they’ve been releasing albums – their debut came out on September 11th 2001 – for their lamentations on the natural world. So it perhaps doesn’t come as much of a shock that Southern California’s I See Hawks In LA usher in their first album in five years with “Song For The Trees”.  But for all the talk of “the Acacias, the honeybees” and whichever species of tree they mention elsewhere, this is a song for the people of the world.  

Perhaps because they have been through so much in the last few years since their last album – 2013’s “Mystery Drug” (a couple of the band have lost their parents) this is a more personal record than before.

Viewed through this prism, everything else makes sense. “Good intentions, are well and good,” sings Rob Waller on the title track, “but they won’t get you out of the neighbourhood” and it’s almost as IF those traumatic experiences have led them to reflect on their existence – I can certainly recall that when I lost my mum, everything else but that seemed to need thinking about.  

Waller and Paul Jacques harmonise wonderfully on the absolute knockout “White Cross” (written with Good Intentions’ Peter Davies), with the deep, rich tones coming straight out of Muscle Shoals, while their apparent desire to play with the formula sees “Stoned With Melissa” – and I See Hawks have always liked an anthem to weed – switch from rock n roll to something more psychedelic, but the twist it takes at the end is most unexpected (and to be fair, I am always going to love a record that has the phrase “sitting in Melissa’s basement with a black and white TV, watching Trading Places, she hates Eddie Murphy” at its heart. 

“Poour Me” (sic) is a classic country strum, and an ode to getting roaring drunk – at least ostensibly, but then you need to remember that these boys and lady are a little too subtle for that. There is more of that feel on “Planet Earth”, which is elevated above the norm by some absolutely stunning Lap Steel playing. 

Perhaps the best example of their ability to look at things in a way that no one else would is “The Last Man In Tujunga”, it has all the devil may care ebullience of Chuck Berry, but it concerns the fires that saw bass player Paul Marshall almost lose his home (and it has a little Stones homage too). This left-field thinking, though, is natural, not forced, and when they are looking at graves at the start of “Singing In The Wind” it all makes perfect sense.  

Drummer Victoria Jacobs narrates her own story on “My Parka Saved Me” and it almost has an air of “The Leader Of The Pack” as she does, while members of Old Californio appear on “King Of The Rosemead Boogie” which rocks and pulses along with a rare urgency.  

“Tearing Me In Two” with its Celtic touches is another highlight, as are Jacobs’ vocals on the 60s, West Coast infused “Spinning” that follows in the spirit of The Byrds and their ilk and seems to be floating along. And the fiddle work of Dave Markowitz is quite brilliant on the equally blissful – but in an entirely different way – “The Isolation Mountains”. 

“Stop Me” ends the record on a warm, airy note. Its widescreen sounds seem to suggest that anything is possible, and such is the ambition on this album that you couldn’t disagree with the premise.  

“Live And Never Learn” is one of those wonderful records that reveals itself in different ways with each passing listen. I could review it tomorrow and hear different things – that’s just how it is made. It is these textures, though, these different strands, that make it so special.  

Rating 8.5/10

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I See Hawks In L.A. are the longtime local masters of Flatlanders-style cosmic country rock—well, it’s more a state of mind than a style, isn’t it? Anyway: Hawks have been a band in L.A. for 17 years and every time they think they’ve seen it all, something else decides to happen. Their new Live and Never Learn album is their first release since 2013, and comes inspired by (or inspired despite, or inspired because of) natural disaster and personal tragedy, a potent tradition that goes all the way back to murder ballads and disaster songs. But founding Hawks Rob Waller and Paul Lacques—interviewing with aplomb here—are still flying, and now they’ve added bassist Paul Marshall, whose credits go all the way back to the Beyond The Valley Of The Dollssoundtrack, and drummer Victoria Jacobs, whose credits go all the way back to L.A.’s Ms. 45 and Roger Corman soundtracks. Live and Never Learn is out June 29, and “The Isolation Mountains” is a characteristically Hawks-ian meditation on the now and the next, says Lacques: “[It’s] an acoustic waltz continuing the Celtic vein, a rural California vision of the afterlife with Galway-style fiddle by Dave Markowitz. There’s an ultimate isolation that pulls at us all but that only helps us more fully savor the moments of true connection with those we love.” I See Hawks in L.A. plays Sun., June 10, at McCabe’swith Tony Gilkyson, and on Fri., July 13, at Cal Plaza downtown with a special set of protest songs—more info at the band’s site here!

out June 29

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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

“LIVE AND NEVER LEARN” DEBUTS AT #1 ON FREEFORM AMERICANA (FAR) CHART

June 14, 2018
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ROOTSTIME (NETHERLANDS) REVIEW “LIVE AND NEVER LEARN”

June 14, 2018

Link To Full Article 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 […]

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

May 24, 2018

Full Article 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 […]

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Rootsville Reviews “Live And Never Learn”

May 22, 2018

Full Article  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 […]

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

May 22, 2018

Full Article  “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 […]

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Lonestar Time Reviews “Live And Never Learn”

May 18, 2018

Full Article The Roots scene in Los Angeles for almost sixty years has been one of the most vibrant and vibrant cornerstones of attraction in America. In the warm Californian sun, generations of musicians have matured and they have been able to unite with great skill country, folk and bluegrass with rock, opening often unusual […]

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