While there’s no shortage of contemporary Americana bands, duos and solo artists digging into the roots of folk, blues, bluegrass, old time, ragtime and whatever its apparent that there’s a thirst for the first blossoming of what was then called “country rock” with hardly an issue of Mojo or Uncut not featuring Gram Parsons, The Byrds or the Eagles. While Gram ain’t touring anymore, the Byrds have flown and the Eagles disintegrated into stadium mush I See Hawks In LA, a grizzled bunch of veterans, have kept the LA canyon flag flying. Playing a sweet, pedal steel flavoured with telecaster topping seventies influenced rock sound they include survivors from the psychedelic sixties in their line up and have long championed environmental issues. A bunch of old hippies perhaps but over the past few years they’ve released a solid bunch of albums and Mystery Drug, the latest coincides with a rare visit to the UK with some Scottish dates included.
With a fuller sound than their last offering, New Kind Of Lonely, the songs here almost define that “peaceful easy feeling” one expected when listening to the latest release on Asylum records back in the seventies. Rob Waller’s voice is relaxed and comfortable while the harmonies gently caress. Pedal steel and accordion support the strummed guitars on several of the songs and there are moments when they rock out with some snarly twanging guitar such as on Rock N Roll Cymbal From The Seventies or the fast driving one and half minute snapshot My Local Merchants. However the real joy is to be found on songs like The River Knows where the pedal steel keens superbly or the excellent opening song Oklahoma’s Going Dry with its environmental message. The title song sounds as if it could have been written by John Stewart as it conflates the drug experience with pirates sailing the seven seas. Yesterday’s Coffee is classic 70’s LA rock while We Could All be In Laughlin Tonight is a fine careworn description of the trials and tribulations of a road weary band. There is some variety with the southern Little Feat like boogie of The Beauty Of The Better States and the accordion flavoured One Drop Of Human Blood but overall the main vibe is of a band who inhabit a time and space that may have passed into the mists of time but fortunately for those who were not there a trip into Mystery Drug can capture some of the essence of that time. And if the album is not enough I See Hawks In LA are heading down Topanga Canyon with their satnav set for the UK and gigs in Dingwall, Glasgow, Kinross, Perth and Inverness in June. Full dates on the website.