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The politically and socially-themed country rock’n’roll of I See Hawks in LA continues on its 2008 album Hallowed Ground, whose back cover shot of a wilted group of flowers against an out of focus Los Angeles skyline sums up the sentiments about trying to keep it all together in a harsh series of environments. If a listener’s reaction to songs with fairly direct messages like “Carbon Dated Love” and “Environmental Children of the Future” will definitely vary person to person, there’s no question that the quartet has the kind of easygoing but sprightly sound down that defines what 21st century roots music that isn’t afraid of modern recording technology sounds like, whether it means the crackle of feedback or simply an appreciation for clear sound.

The full-bodied rhythm snarls on songs like “Keep It In a Bottle” have a punch that keeps things from simply being a museum piece. Sometimes the elaborate constructions of the lyrical references that Rob Waller and Paul Jacques conjure up are downright dazzling, as with the conflation of religious and scientific imagery on “In the Garden,” but just as often the best pleasures come with the subtle musical touches as the descending musical break before the third verse of “Yolo County Airport,” which rivals prime Cheap Trick. Other touches like Dave Markowitz’s lovely fiddle work on “Pale and Troubled Race,” the wonderful ballad towards the end of the album, and Richie Lawrence’s merry accordion on the concluding “Good and Foolish Times,” a wry, bemusing finale, help give Hallowed Ground its enjoyable spark.

~ Ned Raggett