Still flying that old freak flag high and championing the evergreen sounds of Topanga canyon country rock from back in the seventies, I See Hawks in LA return to the fore with this excellent slice of slinky and sly songs. It’s been five years since their last album Mystery Drug and in the meantime two band members have had to contend with the passing of parents, events which stalled the band but which they say they got through due to friends, family and making music. A presumption then that these songs might have had a longer gestation than usual but they are all the better for that as The Hawks deliver a wonderfully balanced set which sets rockers and humorous tales alongside more serious matters such as their ongoing concern for the environment.
It’s a lengthy album but chockfull of great songs. Forget about the comparisons to the Eagles which commonly inhabit reviews of the Hawks. Here they delve deeper into the sounds of bands such as Poco, New Riders of The Purple Sage and even the good old Grateful Dead – just listen to the winding guitars in Singing In the Wind (a song which weirdly enough finds the Hawks in wind blasted Wuthering Heights territory). There’s also a soupçon of southern syncopation in the slow meander of White Cross and surely that’s the spring heeled wackiness of NRBQ lurking in the taut rhythms of Stoned with Melissa before it dissolves into its incense and peppermint coda. There’s cosmic cowboy joy in Poour Me while The Last Man in Tujunga is a supreme roadhouse boogie styled song which would give Commander Cody a run for his money.
The band are more contemplative on their ecology themed songs. Ballad For The Trees has singer Rob Waller sounding like Brett Sparks of The Handsome Family as he sings of the ecosystem in danger of breaking down as the band huff and puff with a powerful country rock chug. Planet Earth is, strangely enough, more ethereal, lifted to the heavens by some heavenly pedal steel playing despite the dystopian despair of the spare lyrics which recall the words of J. G. Ballard. There’s also a light touch on the breezy Live and Never Learn where Dave Zirbel’s pedal steel uncoils itself in best 70’s country rock fashion while Tearing Me in Two adds some fiddle to the mix moving the band from the saloon to the front porch.
We need to mention two songs on which drummer Victoria Jacobs features. My Parka Saved Me is an almost fifties styled death on the road song as she recites the tale of a car smash with a twist on the old tale of a cigarette case catching a bullet. On Spinning she sings lead and takes us down a paisley patterned rabbit hole, a lovely nod to the naivety of many of the psychedelic folk songs of that long gone era. A paisley pattern or more appropriately, a coat of many colours, just about sums up this album as it dips and dives into various styles but overall the band weave these disparate threads into a very fine tapestry of songs and sounds, the end result being one of their best albums.
I See Hawks In LA are currently touring the UK, all dates here.