I See Hawks in LA
Cinematic and atmospheric Alt-Country
After nearly 50 years as a music fan and 15 as a reviewer I still get excited about discovering new bands and having my breath taken away by songs and tunes that I’ve not heard before.
I was aware of I See Hawks in L.A. but only owned 3 tracks on VA compilations when this album arrived, so was only mildly interested at the prospect of listening to it.
Well; it only took 15 seconds of a divine pedal steel intro followed by an attention-grabbing gruff male voice to capture my attention and I went on to spend an enjoyable lunch hour listening to MYSTERY DRUG from start to finish.
Since then I’ve played it as background music while reading the Sunday papers; at full volume as I drove a car on the motorway and also on headphones so I could pick up the nuances of the intricate lyrics. There is something here for everyone as I See Hawks in L.A. tick all of the boxes.
The track that first piqued my interest Oklahoma’s Going Dry is an observational piece about the adversely dry weather effecting farmers and therefore the whole community and; it’s rather beautiful.
It was during track 3 – Yesterday’s Coffee when I initially had to stop work and listen intently; during that very first spin on the office player. As with the rest of the album this song is so laid back, it’s almost asleep, but when you listen to the biting lyrics you know that the writer has a very special talent indeed as he uses a jug of stake coffee as a metaphor for a disintegrating relationship.
A couple of yeas ago I couldn’t put a disc into the player without a banjo booming out of the speakers and this year it’s pedal-steel guitars and just as I was getting a bit tired of constantly hearing this beautiful instrument I See Hawks in L.A have rekindled my love by using it sparingly but effectively, throughout MYSTERY DRUG and it weaves throughout We Could All Be In Laughlin Tonight like a crying heart that that is wailing at the moon.
The song itself is wonderful and will strike a chord with any and every musician that is struggling to make a living by playing their own songs in front of ever dwindling uninterested crowds across the world instead of (in this case) playing in a Skynard tribute band for ‘a hundred a man/plus rooms at the Harrah’s/and a one night stand.’ But, like thousands of others they continue ploughing a lonely furrow for a handful of people who appreciate their ‘art’. Personally; I salute them.
Obviously many of you will want to scream at me for not discovering I See Hawks earlier; as this is actually their 7th release in 14 years and the band members are all excellent, mature musicians who are as comfortable with their instruments as I am with my favourite slippers.
I can’t not mention Stop Driving Like An Asshole which could and should have been a throwaway jokey song; but is sang with as much passion and intensity as everything else and will, no doubt become a powerful sing-a-long encore at every gig until the end of time.
MYSTERY DRUG ends with a simple yet prophetic observation on life and love and family with The River Flows and it bookends the album perfectly.
The album has highs and lows of tempo and I can just as easily imagine the band playing a bar in the seedy side of town and equally, playing the same songs in an Arena in front of 10,000 adoring acolytes.
In many ways there isn’t anything new here and we can all draw a bloodline back through the Californian roots bands of the last 40 years until we arrive back at Gram or perhaps earlier to the Byrds, but what I See Hawks in L.A. give us is a well structured, and often beautiful take on the classic Alt-Country template that will live on long into the future.