I See Hawks In L.A.
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I See Hawks In L.A.

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"Counterpoint, Uncut, L.A. Weekly, Variety, L.A. Daily News, Crawdaddy"

Some days I wake up and the music I hear in my head is the chorus to Hank Williams' “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.” All day long I hear that lonesome whippoorwill until night finally falls, the midnight train whining in the distance. It's not that I'm lonely or anything, mind you, yet that haunting chorus becomes the day's soundtrack.

There's a band out of southern California that renders music as uniquely forlorn as any Hank Williams tune. The name of that group is, somewhat mysteriously, I See Hawks In LA. Composed of founder Rob Waller on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, guitarist Paul Lacques, former Strawberry Alarm Clock bassist Paul Marshall and percussionist Shawn Nourse, I See Hawks In LA bring experienced musicianship (and many experienced guest musicians) to their work. Echoes of the Byrds and Gram Parsons and even The Holy Modal Rounders inform the music this group makes while its lyrics touch on themes of war, peace, freedom, family and that greatest topic of all, love. Sometimes the lyrics are full of humor and sometimes they are full of sadness. Sometimes they sing of the counterculture and sometimes one hears ironic commentary on today's commercial culture of brands and empty meaning. Waller's vocal delivery is a countrified alto that capably evokes whichever emotion the song hopes to convey.

Existing in a country world where the farmers of tradition grow organically and have parents who once called themselves Sunshine, the melodies I See Hawks In LA create are timelessly modern. One of my favorite songs by the group is titled “Raised By Hippies” and appears on their third album California Country. The story of a girl raised in a schoolbus by parents who conceived her in the Haight-Ashbury then moved to the hills of Tennessee, the song's catchy melody highlights the joy the girl transmits no matter where she goes. More than one of us knows a story like this one.

The most recent album, titled Hallowed Ground (Big Book Records) continues the Hawks' trend of danceable rock music imbued with country sensibilities. Fiddle plays a prominent role in several of the songs on the disc yet it is the vocals that once again capture my ear. Lyrically, it is a concerned warning about the environmental disaster we are living in. If the song “Last Lonely Eagle” by New Riders of the Purple Sage were to become an entire album, this is what it would sound like. The third song “Carbon Dated Love” warns of an LA doomed to die. “Now all ye hunters and ye gatherers prepare/For wild blue wandering....” The pedal steel and guitar trade licks reminiscent of the best Sneaky Pete Kleinow. The next tune, with singer Rob Waller sounding a bit like an early Waylon Jennings, continues the theme of a parched, sterile and deadly future.

Despite the dystopian outlook that underscores this album, the true spirit is that of a paean to the beauty of the western landscape and sky, Celtic history and life, love, and the hippie nomad. This spirit is quite clear in the song “Highway Down”--an LA cowboy's song to the countryside he loves and a prayer that it will somehow survive. Even as he digs a grave on the highway down. “Lord knows I love this Valley,” sings Waller. “Though it's as wounded as an alley.” Like the child raised by hippies, the folks in “The Environmental Children of the Future” is a tribute to those young and old who have taken the best of the counterculture ethos and are trying to live a future where the earth matters as much as the people on it. “The environmental children of the future,” go the lyrics, “Took their elders by the hand” and showed them how to live—after the flood as it were.

There is an overall joy that emanates from the Hawks' music. Acoustic guitar progressions accentuate Celtic fiddle melodies on some songs while the melodies of others are carried by a rock guitar reminiscent of James Burton's work with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The lyrics display a wry sense of the situation we find ourselves in while remaining hopeful about our future as a species. Other songs display an equally wry approach to the ups and downs of love. This is the music the 1960s counterculture was meant to produce in its brightest hours. The fact that it appears now some forty years later in a world arguably more hopeless is a sign of hope in itself. Despite the echoes of that lonesome whippoorwill, I See Hawks In LA wipes away those tears we are sometimes too blue to cry.

-- Ron Jacobs, COUNTERPOINT



A superb ensemble with a serious pedigree in California's roots-rock scene - the band has links to Dave Alvin, Dwight Yoakam and Dillard & Clark - I See Hawks' work is a timely update of Blasters/Beat Farmers heart-on-sleeve populism. On 'Hallowed Ground' singer-songwriter Rob Waller has a great feel for a kind of burned-out, post-apocalypse American landscape evidenced by the sparkling , world-weary ballad 'Highway Down', and the percolating 'Ever Since The Grid - /


"Performing Songwriter, Folkworks, Maverick UK live review"

Their handle suggests an ecological/apocalyptic collision, and on I See Hawks in L.A.’s fourth album, the virtues of getting back to nature and seeking solace in rural environs seem laced with new urgency. Hallowed Ground may not break new ground as far as the band’s country-rock template is concerned, but in re-furrowing familiar terrain, they effectively reclaim the hippie cowboy mantle of the Byrds, the Burritos and the New Riders in the free-flow of ’60s splendor. The breezy twang of “Carbon Dated Love,” a fiddle-fried “In the Garden” and the laidback title tune echo an era when going to the country and soaking up nature’s glory was an admirable populist precept heralded by the nation’s wayward youth. So when the weary, twitchy traveling tune “Yola County Airport” reworks the old truckers’ standard “Six Days on the Road,” it turns déja vu into a welcome return.
— Lee Zimmerman, PERFORMING SONGWRITER


The thinking man's country ensemble, who seem to soar ever higher over the vast wilderness of hyphenated roots music bands, have released another recording, Hallowed Ground, and it admirably adds to the existing evidence that they deserve their previous acclaim.

Yes, there is some indication that they have some kind of preternatural flower power at their disposal. However, you could eschew the acid folk, biorhythm and blues, hippie-hop, and eco-country tags because the songs that they offer are still just under the good music umbrella, psychedelic-imbued or not. The Rob Waller-Paul Lacques writing partnership excels at a variety of styles, covering the landscape with the eccentric to the epic. Yes, it's counter-country done with poetic flair but also digs in with relevancy and depth akin to short story collections.

Among the many highlights, the opening track, Carbon Dated Love lets the past and the present intertwine as two lovers take a paleontological leap. The soulful Keep it in a Bottle starts up with some down and dirty guitar riffs and segues into a nearly anthemic flower child ballad. The engaging country swing, In the Garden, fiddle-driven with pedal steel weaving in between the harmonies, comes with a stormy global message. The shanty, The Salty Sea, complete with fiddle and bodhran and a nod to traditional Celtic melody, sends us back a couple of centuries to experience an ominous tale of slavery's imprint. The beautifully rendered Never Alive with guest, Gabe Witcher escorting the lyrics with stirring fiddle passages waltzing with Waller's vocals, is a somber serenade of heartfelt admission. The border song, Good and Foolish Times comes infused with Tex-Mex texture via accordion runs by guest Richie Lawrence and laced with pedal-steel licks for good measure. It's a tasty and rollicking run down memory lane.

Instrumentally, they produce the tight, right on cohesiveness with their guest players filling in like family, never gilding the lily, but presenting the apropos effect and atmosphere for any given tune. The three-part harmonies ride in and back Waller's warmly potent lead vocal. His straight ahead articulation often deadpans the ironical lyrics, perhaps making the song even more incisive than had a more sardonic inflection been used. The Hawk rhythm duo of Paul Marshall on bass and drummer, Shawn Nourse, securely anchor the sound down. Hallowed Ground often includes a non-typical country music instrumental arsenal, but what would you expect from a band that never operates inside anyone else's definition of country music?

With Hallowed Ground, the Hawks effectively channel their kind of neo-flower power, but lead the renaissance with savvy and wit, bringing it with solid instrumental craft. References to local flora and fauna pop up and mix with tales of both the post-modern and historical diaspora, with a not-so-subtle nod to folly and farce, and the Hawks embrace in the telling of it all. Hallowed Ground continues the legacy of sharp and conscious songwriting and introduces new musical flavors, pushing the roots music genre ever forward.

-- Joel Okida, FOLKWORKS (CD of the week)

I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. - live review

BRONTË MUSIC CLUB REAL MUSIC CLUB@RATHFRILAND, CO. DOWN AUGUST 12

ERRIGLE INN, BELFAST AUGUST 13

California-based country rockers, I See Hawks in L.A., on a short European ‘tourette’ from their desert habitat, played their only two dates in the British Isles at these two prestigious venues in the North of Ireland. These guys were brilliant, well deserving of the accolade paid by none other than the great Dave Alvin, “I See Hawks are indeed one of California’s unique treasures”. Playing without support, they kicked off with Hallowed Ground, the title track from their 2008 album (see July issue for review). This set the tone for the rest of the evening. We were not to be disappointed. Comprising founder members Rob Waller on lead vocals and acoustic guitar and lead guitarist Paul Lacques, as well as ex-Strawberr - /


"No Depression, PASTE, L.A. Times, The Onion, Village Voice"

"Try as you might to avoid the heinous hippie-cliché 'cosmic' when describing the music of I See Hawks in LA, when the melodies, lyrics, harmonies and licks take over, you'll find yourself lost in some greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts moment. The Hawks' new disc, California Country, would make an appropriate score for Thomas Pynchon's Vineland: The pace is trance-inducing, the stories transfixing, the vibe completely Californian.

"'Slash from Guns N' Roses' doesn't just mock L.A. life--it bitch-slaps the entire concept of West Coast pop, and 'Barrier Reef' is the best anthem to Cannabis sativa since 'Humboldt' (from the previous Hawks record, Grapevine). These guys even have the cojones to snipe at the Lone Star State in the form of 'Houston Romance' (which they swear is mostly true). And, really, who could disagree with a lyric like 'Texas City, Corpus Christi, it's not the humidity, it's the humanity / it's not the insensitivity, it's the insanity / Corpus Christi, Texas City?' Seldom has there been an album with such joyous music-making, such corrosive, acid-etched lyrics. Way cosmic."

-- WM Smith, NO DEPRESSION


"Hawks newcomers might be tempted to write off California Country as a comedy album. With novelties like “The Donkey Song,” the tongue-in-cheek “Houston Romance” and the folksy “Slash From Guns N’ Roses,” the band’s humor is front and center (as opposed to the gentler, more laconic lyrics on its 2004 effort, Grapevine). But this doesn’t make its musicianship any less impressive. With steel guitar, fiddle, acoustic riffs and electric licks, a rock ’n’ roll drummer and Rob Waller’s plaintive, Merle Haggard-style vocals, the Hawks continue to channel Gram Parsons’ easy-goin’ demeanor and affinity for good times on their third release, which features Chris Hillman—the Grievous Angel’s old bandmate—on mandolin."

-- Andria Lisle, PASTE


"Possibly the city's premier roots band marks the release of 'California Country,' an album that's pure in sound and progressive in spirit, with songs about hippies' children, fatal attractions and other meaty topics."

--Richard Cromelin, L.A. TIMES


"There haven't been many bands like I See Hawks in L.A. The group favors the kind of legitimate shit-kicking, Stetson-wearing country music you find in 'Nice Price' cassette bins at truck stops along I-5. Of course, what's exceptional about I See Hawks isn't it's iconoclastic approach to the L.A. music scene but the quality of its music.

The recent California Country is indicative of its whole catalog: Bass and drums like a two-step, lap steel paints a constant sunset, and lonesome prairie harmonies ring throughout, charging the poetic lyrics with a universal, approachable quality." -- THE ONION



"Do two great groups constitute a, you know, scene? Along with Beachwood Sparks, the Hawks have updated Southern California country rock. Their music, driven by the fine steel guitarist Paul Lacques, is sinewy yet poetic--more nihilistic than decadent, with an urban-desert poetry all its own."
-- Richard Gehr, VILLAGE VOICE





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"High Times, SPIN, Times of Acadiana"


Los Angeles is a desert, both geographically and culturally, but those of us who pay rent here occasionally find an oasis in the Capital of Crap. I See Hawks In L.A. blew on the scene like a hot Santa Ana with their debut album in 2001. They blend country and psychedelia with soaring three-part harmonies that leave the poseurs of alt-schmaltz dust choked. Lead singer Rob Waller and lead guitarist Paul Lacques co-write most of the songs, smart and wry tone poems about mayhem and mortality and sing-a-long anthems that hoist the freak flag high.

The quartet’s third album California Country is rife with rage over the triumph of vultures. In songs like “Hard Times (Are Here Again),” and “Byrd From West Virginia” (an ode to Senator Robert Byrd), they celebrate the power of free-thinking – an authentic American value currently underutilized. “Slash From Guns N’ Roses” is the true farce about an imposter who passed himself off as the title character – a not-uncommon phenom in this celebrity-infested rathole.

These guys are the house band for a revolution that isn’t over yet. Some of us are growing marijuana, some of us are psychedelic country rockers, and – as the Hawks suggest in “Raised By Hippies” – some of us are being born. On that rare smog-less day, you can see us flying over the L.A. basin, proud and free.

-- Michael Simmons, HIGH TIMES


"While I See Hawks sound like the refugees from the '60s/070s L.A. country rock milieu that spawned
Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers (one of the scene's founding fathers, Chris HIllman, even
played on their previous album), the songwriting duo of frontman Rob Waller and guitarist
Paul Lacques enhance the earnestly shopworn sagebrush grooves with a shot of timely anxiety.
The weepy "Environmental Children Of The Future" evokes images of "hundred year floods"
and other perils, and the stomping "Ever Since The Grid Went Down" spins a hair-raising
tale of survivalism.
-- Jon Young, SPIN


"In 'Waiting Around to Die,' Townes Van Zandt sang about his new friend codeine. Zandt was a stellar weaver of song, taking country music into new places -- finely worded and evocative poetry. The boys in I See Hawks in L.A. (playing the Blue Moon this Sunday) share Zandt's song writing approach ... and perhaps his friend. Formed during a philosophical discussion/rock throwing session in the Mojave desert, I See Hawks can't help but gaze directly at the sun -- an edgy country rock reminiscent of the 1970s, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons. With their three-part harmony and a knack for songwriting rivaling a mix of Zandt's poetry and Ray Wylie Hubbard's smart, heady material, they also incorporate sly near-comic genius in their story tales songs. Modern troubadours of descriptive narratives and stand-for-something songs, their dreamy alt. country/country rock drifts towards the heavens like embers from a campfire dancing in the wind of a desert night. While remaining grounded in country music, the band takes it on a ride -- music for the open road and the open mind."
--Nick Pittman, Times of Acadiana (Lafayette)


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Discography

I See Hawks In L.A. have released four CDs:

2001 eponymous
2004 Grapevine
2006 California Country
2008 Hallowed Ground

streaming tracks at: iseehawks.com

VIDEO & LIVE PERFORMANCES AT: http://www.iseehawks.com/hawkslog/archives/2007/02/hawks_live_vide.html

Photos

Bio


VIDEO & LIVE PERFORMANCES AT:

http://www.iseehawks.com/hawkslog/archives/2007/02/hawks_live_vide.html

and myspace.com/iseehawksinla

With four acclaimed CD releases, heavy Americana/folk radio play, and extensive tours of the U.S., UK, and Europe, I See Hawks In L.A. lead the new roots based country music movement--with witty, bold, and poetic eco themed lyrics and subtle variations on traditional sounds. The Hawks boast a memorable lead singer, rich harmonies, and subtly subversive guitar and steel textures.

Hawks acoustic shows are models of accomplished traditional folk/bluegrass performance, while their electric shows veer wildly from straight ahead honky tonk to extended psychedelic jams.

Formed in 1999 by Rob Waller and brothers Paul and Anthony Lacques during a philosophical discussion and rock throwing session on an East Mojave desert trek, the Hawks sought advice from local country rock guru David Jackson, bassist with John Denver and Dillard and Clark.

Jackson set up a few mics and recorded Rob and Paul, adding his own melodic bass lines, and the Hawks eponymous debut CD was launched, featuring legendary fiddler Brantley Kearns (Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin, Hazel Dickens). The CD established the Hawks signature sound: high lonesome three part harmonies, twang guitar and unadorned acoustic arrangements, with lyrics musing on mortality, whales, and the geography of pre-apocalyptic L.A.

ISHILA received rave reviews, made the F.A.R. Alternative Country Chart, and continues to get regular airplay, acknowledged as an alt country classic. With its experimental spirit and wide ranging musical influences, the record tweaked some traditionalists. But critics agreed that the Hawks had broken new ground.

"I See Hawks are indeed one of California's unique treasures."
-- Dave Alvin

The Hawks quickly rose to the top of heap in the brand new Los Angeles alternative country scene. Bassist Paul Marshall (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Rose Maddox) threw in after jamming with the Hawks at Ronnie Mack's Barndance. Drummer Shawn Nourse (Dwight Yoakam, James Intveld) signed on for a trip to SXSW and never left.

Shows all over SoCal garnered the Hawks L.A. Weekly Best Country Artist awards in 2002 and 2003.

The Hawks second CD, "Grapevine," was released on summer solstice 2004, and went to #1 on the F.A.R. Chart, stayed in the Americana Chart's top 100 for months, and hit #2 on XM Radio's X Country station. Strong reviews and a national audience followed the Hawks 28 city Summer '04 tour, from a state prison in Vermont to a Mississippi roadhouse to the Cactus Cafe and KUT's Eklektikos in Austin, to Hempfest in Seattle.

Summer of '05 West Coast and Rockies tours brought the Hawks to the woods, and the woods to the Hawks.

The Hawks released their third CD, "California Country," in June '06, with guest spots from Chris Hillman, Rick Shea, Cody Bryant, Danny McGough, Tommy Funderburk, and other SoCal roots brethren. Tackling subjects like despair in Disney World, blackjack in Jackpot, hippie parenting, donkeys, and Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia, "California Country" brought more bluegrass, country psychedelia, and steel driven honky tonk to the Hawks sonic empire.

That summer the Hawks hit the road with Tony Gilkyson and Kip Boardman for a 57 date tour of the U.S., England, and Scotland. Thirty states, two currencies, many varieties of local whiskey, including highlands single malts and North Carolina moonshine, not a lot of sleep, and too much fun. Highlights included the Belladrum Festival with peat smoking teepees near Inverness, Scotland; a Vermont barn dance; an outdoor festival near Yellowstone; and Joe's Pub in NYC.

In March '08 the Hawks released their 4th CD "Hallowed Ground," recorded by the band and mixed by Ethan Allen (The 88, Patti Griffin, Daniel Lanois), with stellar guest spots from fiddlers Gabe Witcher and Dave Markowitz, pedal steeler Dave Zirbel, acoustic guitar from Rick Shea, and accordionist/pianist Richie Lawrence. Folkier and moodier than previous Hawks outings, "Hallowed Ground" was released in May to rave reviews, and hit #1 on the Freeform American Roots radio chart, hovering in the top 10 for four months, and hitting #4 on the Euro Americana Chart.

The Hawks did a short but very successful tour of Northern Ireland and Norway in August '08 playing live on BBC Belfast and Down On The Farm Fest south of Oslo, and will return for an extended Europe tour in May 2009.

The Hawks can be found in their native habitats: The Echo and outdoor fest Grand Performances in downtown Los Angeles, The Cinema Bar in Culver City, Ronnie Mack's Barn Dance, Pappy and Harriets and Gramfest in the high desert, McCabes and Folk Music Center, Coffee Gallery Backstage, and Ben Vaughn's Wonder Valley Music Fest at the Palms bar, even further east of nowhere; at acoustic house concerts, and any dive that will take them, from Seatt