Imagine if Graham Parsons had hooked up with Grace Slick instead of Emmylou, and one of their offspring had moved out to Joshua Tree for a decade or so, then formed a band with a couple of his friends. The real story of how I See Hawks In L.A. came into being is less, well, legendary. But that picture paints a good story about what an ISHILA record is going to sound like, so I’m sticking to it. If that image doesn’t do it for you, think lots of pedal steel and twang and 70’s era country rock sounds.
Shoulda Been Gold is the fifth Hawks album. The title is a reference to it being an album of their greatest hits, which, if you subscribe to the Nashville or Variety way of counting, they don’t have. Gotta love the sarcasm. If you’re a long time fan, or just new to the Hawks, though, this is a good sample of some of their best work, with some new tunes thrown in for good measure.
Take for example I See Hawks In L.A., the eponymous track about being a free spirit in a town built on beauty and a perceived ideal. Similarly The Salesman explores selling hope in the guise of con men and televangelism.
As you can imagine, the Hawks can be master story-tellers, accomplishing political commentary with a tale about a place or time and how it affects someone. One of my favorites is Humboldt, the northern California county where “I’d be glad to plant corn in the ground, but corn don’t go for three-thousand a pound.” They also included Raised By Hippies, which is about exactly what you think it’s about.
Depending on how you count, there are 5-6 new songs on this greatest hits collection. Sexy Vacation is the one I’d tag as being the closest to a classic ISHILA tune. But the one I like better is the live version of Mystery of Life. It’s an a cappella, old-timey version where the boys harmonize it’s “each man’s destiny to face the mystery of life…alone.” And so it is.
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