Recording Review: I See Hawks in LA


I See Hawks in LA A New Kind of Lonely (Western Seeds Records)

Review by Art Menius for http://artmenius.com

An old joke defines a gentleman as someone who knows how to play bluegrass music, but chooses not to do so. I See Hawks in LA offers a west coast style of acoustic music that draws deeply on bluegrass without ever becoming bluegrass except for “Hunger Mountain Breakdown Those who remember Kate Wolf will know that of which I speak and will likely love I See Hawks in LA.

Their sixth CD in a 13-year career, A New Kind of Lonely, features entirely original songs, lovely musicianship, and an open, welcoming vibe. “I Fell in Love With the Grateful Dead” captures much of the spirit of the album and the band. While that is a straight up love song to a special scene, I See Hawks in LA possesses a true facility for contrasting the music and lyrics. .” The “breakdown” in the title of “Hunger Mountain Breakdown” turns out to be a double entendre, for example, since the protagonist is pondering jumping off a cliff. “I know that if I am up here on this mountain, my problems will soon end.” “Big Old Hypodermic Needle” is an upbeat country song about overdosing on heroin.

They also have a literary inclination, which certainly distinguishes their songwriting from bluegrass compositions. “Dear Flash” is inspired by Gurney Norman’s novel Divine Rights Trip, the novel that appeared in the Last Whole Earth Catalog. As we know, Gurney hung out with the Grateful Dead when they were still called the Warlocks. “Mary Austin Sky,” on the other hand, draws inspiration from the painter Mary-Austin Klein with the wondrous opening line “even mundane objects are beautiful.”

The trio of Rob Waller (lead vocals, guitar), Paul Lacques (guitar, Dobro), and Paul Marshall (electric and upright bass) comprises I See Hawks in LA. Waller and Lacques serve as the primary songwriters. A number of guest musicians, including the fantastic southern California fiddler Gabe Witcher, help out.

By now you may have noticed a lot of references to the 1970s. It is hard to listen to this most enjoyable album without feeling the 70s groove. It is not unfair to file A New Kind of Lonely under granola music for the early 21st century. Whether you are nostalgic or just enjoy top notch songwriting, social commentary, and acoustic guitar picking, you will appreciate A New Kind of Lonely by I See Hawks in LA.

You can sample some of the cuts at http://www.iseehawks.com/store

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