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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

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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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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

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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 ways and experimenting with brilliance those sounds. I See Hawks In L.A. Since 1999, they have been among the best flag-bearers of the bonds between rock and country music, with eight discs of assets that refer to the golden years (between sixty and seventy) of Westcoastian music. Personally, their approach often reminds me of the first New Riders Of The Purple Sage, those who, under the aegis of Jerry Garcia, a great fan of country and bluegrass, added their personal touch of rock and soul (from Bo Diddley to Johnny Otis) and a pinch of psychedelia to flavor everything. Rob Waller and Paul Lacques are at the helm of the band from its beginnings and over the years have kept straight the bar never renouncing to compose excellent country songs forming a repertoire very pleasant and very consistent. The guitarists of the two leaders are joined by bassist Paul Marshall and drummer Victoria Jacobs in a compact and cohesive quartet to which they give a hand in these sessions the talented Richie Lawrence on keyboards, Dave Zirbel that with his pedal steel retraces the deeds of the great Buddy Cage (from the New Riders) and Dave Markowitz on the fiddle. “Live And Never Learn” is a record full of excellent country songs like the song that gives the title to the album, “Poor Me”, “The Last Man In Tujunga” and “White Cross” in particular, a poker d ‘ axes that nobility the record, with the great love for the environment of “Ballad For The Trees” and “Planet Earth”, rock and psychedelic that follow one another in the funny “Stoned With Melissa”, the delicate and poetic “The Isolation Mountains “and the nostalgic” Stop Me “, gems of a selection that confirms I See Hawks In LA among the most valid independent roots bands. And what a name! Remo Ricaldone

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One of my absolute favorite bands in Los Angeles (or anywhere, for that matter) is I See Hawks In L.A. Part of the reason for that is Rob Waller’s voice, one of the best voices in music these days. It’s a voice that is friendly and wise, experienced, sometimes filled with joy, sometimes with sadness. Another part of the reason is the songwriting. These guys consistently write engaging, honest, and sometimes beautiful material. The band’s new album, Live And Never Learn, is a perfect example of that. All the tracks are originals, nearly an hour of excellent new material. It’s been nearly five years since the band’s last studio release, Mystery Drug. Can that be right? Wow, time is moving much too quickly. This album features the work of several guest musicians, including Richie Lawrence on accordion and piano, Dave Markowitz on fiddle, Danny McGough on organ and synthesizer, and Dave Zirbel on pedal steel.

The Hawks open this album with “Ballad For The Trees.” This is a group that often turns to ecological themes in its material, yet is able to refrain from preaching and to keep from letting messages overpower the music. A steady rhythm gives the song a kind of cheerful vibe from the start, and then when the vocals come in, the lyrics work almost in opposition to that feel. “Have we stripped ourselves of context/Are we drowning in the seas/The facts that come too easily/Friends we never see/Friends we never see.” But then it does rise in optimism. “Here’s a song for the Acacia/Here’s a song for honey bees/Here’s a song just for everyone writing down their dreams.” And we’re off to a great start. “Ballad For The Trees” is followed by “Live And Never Learn,” the album’s title track, which has more of a breezy country vibe. “Well, I try so hard to do what’s right/But that won’t get me through Friday night.” Then there is a surprising section toward the end, with the lyrics coming at you more quickly. “Every promise I knew I’d break/Every friend looks the other way/Every leap I never took/Halfway down, let’s take a look.”

As I mentioned, this band writes some damn good lyrics. In “White Cross,” Rob Waller sings “Good times didn’t suit me/I had to taste the pain” and “I know the angels love me/Even though I did them wrong.” This group conveys heartache so well, but also can provide good times. (I always feel seriously good when I see this band in concert.) Then, as if to prove that, they follow “White Cross” with a rockin’ number about getting stoned and watching Trading Places on a black and white TV, “Stoned With Melissa.” I love those backing vocals, which will likely remind you of early rock and roll and pop tunes. I also love the phrase “vacation from common sense.” Getting stoned is another theme the band does return to. But this song takes a turn and becomes a bit strange in the second half, slowing down and becoming less joyful, and it ends with some spoken word.

“Poour Me,” which was written by all four band members, has a great country sound, with Dave Zirbel adding some wonderful stuff on pedal steel. And it tackles one of those perennial country subjects: problems with drinking. The song opens with the line, “Poor me, poor me, pour me more wine.” Amen. The band approaches the subject with some humor, as in lines like “The eighties was his peak.” And it wouldn’t be an I See Hawks In L.A. album if there weren’t at least a few references to Los Angeles. This song mentions the 110 highway (which has a ridiculously dangerous stretch, with the shortest entrance ramps in existence, for those who haven’t driven this road). That’s followed by “Planet Earth.” This song is a mellow, thoughtful reflection on the state of things and our relation to it. Check out these lyrics: “Thought I saw a magical train/It was just a long shopping mall in the rain/From the corner of my eye to a wish in my brain/That turns a shopping mall into a train/It’s easy, so easy.”

“The Last Man In Tujunga” is a country rock and roll tune about both fire season in southern California and a break-up done over the phone. When he’s losing the signal, he sings “You’re breaking up and I’m losing you.” This one includes a nod to the Rolling Stones.  “My Parka Saved My Life,” which was written by all four band members, features drummer Victoria Jacobs on lead vocals. It’s a strange song, in which Victoria delivers the story as spoken word, and Rob Waller echoes the lines, but sings them. And then the rest of the band provides some wonderful backing vocals, turning the tale of a car accident caused by a drunk driver into something sweet and beautiful. And also funny. This song has me laughing out loud several times, like when Rob suddenly changes his role from echoing Victoria’s lines to adding some of his own, leading her to contradict him, “No, that’s not true.” Another funny moment is when Rob is singing “My parka, my parka, my parka” and Victoria amends the line, giving some new information, “It was my brother’s parka,” and immediately Rob changes his backing vocal line to “It was my brother’s parka.” Still, the song tells a rather serious tale, and ends up being one of my favorite tracks. Victoria Jacobs also provides vocals on the pretty “Spinning,” this time singing the lyrics, which she also wrote. “Spinning, spinning out of time.”

The title “King Of The Rosemead Boogie” does not mislead; this song is a boogie, the music sounding like something ZZ Top might have done in the late 1970s. The lyrics, however, are something else entirely. By the way, for those who don’t reside around here, Rosemead is a city in Los Angeles County. Then I really like the fiddle in “Tearing Me In Two.”  Fiddle is also prominent in “The Isolation Mountains,” a sweet-sounding folk song that is another of the disc’s highlights. “I was pleading with the stars/You turned your back on Mars/Our pillow was the river to the fields.” Am I completely mad, or does this song remind you just a bit of “The First Noel” at moments? The album then concludes with “Stop Me,” which has a light-hearted folk vibe. “I’m staring into the sun/Just want to have some fun/Just like the sweepstakes said/Maybe I’ve already won/Oh, stop me.”

CD Track List

  1. Ballad For The Trees
  2. Live And Never Learn
  3. White Cross
  4. Stoned With Melissa
  5. Poour Me
  6. Planet Earth
  7. The Last Man In Tujunga
  8. Singing In The Wind
  9. My Parka Saved Me
  10. King Of The Rosemead Boogie
  11. Tearing Me In Two
  12. Spinning
  13. The Isolation Mountains
  14. Stop Me

Live And Never Learn is scheduled to be released on June 29, 2018.