by John Apice
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If you crossed the DNA of Gram Parsons, Pure Prairie League, Quicksilver Messenger Service, & Goose Creek Symphony with The Band – you’d have I See Hawks in L.A. This unit of eccentric fashion-plates can’t help but sound — entertaining. The band isn’t a group of newbies & it’s not that they’re retro. They’re not. They just have a familiar, intriguing sound. Their melody-fix brings ears back to another era in the coolest manner imagined.
I was buying the Holy Modal Rounders, Seatrain, & Mason Proffitt. Though those names may escape some readers — these bands had their day. I See Hawks In L.A. is filled with that richness, originality & excellence.
“Know Just What To Do,” is exceptional. A beautifully melodic tune. No controversy, no angst, no anger, no showboating. Just good music. The 11-cut On Our Way (Independent-Drops Aug 27) is their 10th CD of innocent quicksilver moments with textured continuity. It possesses impressive clarity & the songs are striking. I’ve listened 3 times to this set – there’s always something I missed.
This Southern California alt-country/Americana/folk-rock band is precise. On “Mississippi Gas Station Blues,” they indeed come impressively close to The Band if Garth Hudson were the lead singer. But their own signature sound is potent & strikingly good.
“Kensington Market,” features the 60s Cowsills/Spanky & Our Gang – like vocals of drummer Victoria Jacobs. Mindful of the melodic richness of all the incredible 60s melodic pop hits of the era.
“Stealing,” has tints of The Band/Little Feat. The songwriting is exceptional throughout & the varied voices make for an interesting listen, unincumbered with sameness. “If I Move,” is where the Goose Creek Symphony connection is strongest. The presentation is like a 70s Charlie Gearheart song. That’s a compliment because his tunes were always distinctive & often played unflinchingly. (The medley of “Saturday Night at the Grange/Little Liza Jane”). I See Hawks in L.A. has that cohesion.
The closing quirky tune “How You Gonna Know,” is a classic waiting to happen. If Frank Zappa dabbled in alt-country this 8-minute country-noir could possibly be his contribution. A jambalaya of sound. “Love is a dirty glacier…” Indeed.
I See Hawks: Rob Waller (lead vocals/BG vocal/acoustic guitar/synth), Paul Lacques (guitars/lap steel/autoharp/jaw harp/mandolin/BG vocal), Paul Marshall (bass/BG vocal/lead vocal on “Radio Keeps Me On the Ground”), Victoria Jacobs (drums/tambourine/lead vocals) with Brantley Kearns (fiddle), Dave Zirbel (pedal steel), Richie Lawrence (accordion), Danny McGough (mellotron/Lowrey Celebration), Rich Dembowski (acoustic guitar/vocals), Woody Aplanalp (electric guitar/vocals), James Combs (acoustic guitars), & Ed Barguiarena (organ). Double Naught Spy Car plays on cut 11 – Joe Berardi (drums), Marc Doten (synths) & Marcus Watkins (electric guitar).
Color image: Americana Highways & I See Hawks in L.A.