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October 11, fall of the west 2006

Western Beat on at Highland Grounds (on Highland, of course, just north of Melrose, and just west of an alley where a homeless man has been defying death for years by sleeping next to a fence inches from late night DUI drivers rolling past) has been happening once a month for fifteen years.Tonight Bliss is the gracious host (check out her invaluable guide to local roots music of all styles at americanarootsla.net), and her good vibe, as usual, permeates the room. L.A.’s finest alt roots country acts get 20 minutes each, and a very attentive crowd cheers, surrounding the stage. The Hawks lurk in a corner settling up the last of summer tour money, nursing their Makers Marks. “Good pour,” notes Rob, and indeed it is a generous shot of amber liquid in the glass. “Big Whiskey,” we decide, is a good alternate name for the good pour.

Clair Holley and Rob Seals precede the Hawks, and they are a masterful duo, Clair’s super pro picking and velvet voice filled out by Rob’s ace solos, which the crowd digs. The Hawks play electric sans Shawn, who’s out whoring, backing up a San Bernardino welder at a Moose lodge in Idlewild, playing Elvis and Toby Keith songs. The Hawks do no Elvis, but play their eponymous theme, A Dog Can Break Your Heart Too, Carbon Dated Love, and Libre Road. No country rock tunes, and it feels somber and great. The crowd seems to dig it much. Thank you Bliss, for who you are and what you do.