"I See Hawks in L.A. has managed to carve out their own unique slice of the country rock pie with their bluegrass-like three part harmonies, songs that hew closer to the country than the rock side of the equation, and a literary approach to lyric writing thatâ€™s at once highbrow and down home. Theyâ€™ve also got a sense of humor, which can be the kiss of death to any band in pop music, but the wit of songwriters Rob Waller and Paul Lacques is laced with enough dark irony to prevent you from laughing out loud.
"I See Hawks in L.A. may be the first ever eco-friendly country band, as evidenced by three tracks on Hallowed Groundâ€”â€œEnvironmental Children of the Futureâ€, â€œIn the Gardenâ€, and â€œEver Since the Grid Went Down.â€ Itâ€™s an over-the-top portrait of what may happen when the gas and coal run out, driven by a galloping rhythm, screaming lead guitar, and a playfully malevolent vocal that makes its tale of apocalyptic violence and debauchery sound like fun. â€œIn the Gardenâ€ is played like an old fashion hoedown with driving pedal steel and jittery fiddle, while the lyrics suggest the coming global warming meltdown.
"The rest of the album displays a more familiar cosmic cowboy vibe. The title â€œCarbon Dated Loveâ€ sounds a bit highfalutin but itâ€™s a great metaphor for the timeless pains and joys of romance. Lacques lays down some great twang-heavy guitar while Shawn Nourseâ€™s drumming and Paul Marshallâ€™s bass supply a bouncy, chooglinâ€™ beat. â€œYolo County Airportâ€ is a stomping song perfect for all-night drives through the desert, while â€œHallowed Groundâ€ is a pure brokenhearted country tune that details the wreckage of a marriage, albeit with lyrics a bit more literary then your average Nashville ditty.
"The Hawks are also intent on not fitting too snugly into the country rock niche. â€œThe Salty Seaâ€ is a Celtic flavored sea chanty with inspired fiddling by Dave Markowitx and pennywhistle accents by Steven Woodruff. Itâ€™s a folky tale of a shipâ€™s captain facing a doom he feels he deserves for his years of participation in the slave trade. â€œGood and Foolish Timesâ€ closes the album with a beat thatâ€™s part Tex-Mex and part Cajun stomp. Wallerâ€™s vocals are full of joy and regret as he recalls the nights of a wild relationship knowing heâ€™ll never recapture the frenzy of a misspent youth. The Hawks may be a bit too sincere at times, but they know how to lock into a solid groove and ride it like a bucking bronco, and thatâ€™s the hallmark of all great country bands."
-- J. Poet, CRAWDADDY MAGAZINE
â€œThis local crew of eccentric jangle rockers dig deep into the mythic past and the uncertain future on their latest release. Lovely country rock harmonies and sweet pedal steel inform semi-surreal epic visions with such titles as â€œCarbon Dated Love,â€ â€œEver Since The Grid Went Down,â€ and â€œPale And Troubled Race.â€ The band has a great, smart sense of humor, but their deep concerns about both man and natureâ€™s darker prospects are never far from the surface. Theyâ€™re like cowboy scientists whoâ€™ve spent many a
night out on the range contemplating What It All Means.â€
-- Bob Strauss, L.A. DAILY NEWS
"I really liked a lot of these alt-country rockers' last album, and this one continues to display versatility, variety and power, with an intriguing dystopian science-fictional bent in the lyrics."
-- Ken Barnes, USA TODAY
"I got the I See Hawks In L.A. cd from Sweden the other day and I wanna say that the album is another stunning collection of the most genuine american roots around. I loved the band since the very first time I heard it and it's growing better every time."
-- Remo Ricaldone, AMERICAN ROOTS ITALY
"Their songs are rife with mournful social commentary, environmental tragedy, wily humor, outsider guile, and political undercurrent. Seldom has there been an album with such joyous music-making, such corrosive, acid-etched lyrics."
-- WM Smith, NO DEPRESSION
"I See Hawks In L.A. blend country and psychedelia with soaring three-part harmonies that leave the poseurs of
alt-schmaltz dust choked. These guys are the house band for a revolution that isn't over yet."
-- Michael Simmons, HIGH TIMES
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, I See Hawks In L.A. wrote their first batch of songs and then sought advice from local country rock guru David Jackson, sideman with John Denver, Dillard and Clark, and Emmy Lou Harris.
Jackson set up a few mics and recorded Rob and Paul, adding his own melodic bass lines. This demo turned into featured songs on the Hawks eponymous debut on now-defunct Ethic Records, 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.
I See Hawks In L.A. received rave reviews, made the F.A.R. Alternative Country Chart, and continues to get regular airplay. With its experimental spirit and wide ranging musical influences, the record tweaked some traditionalists. But most agree that the Hawks have broken new ground.
The Hawks hadn't planned on much more than back porch songwriting and beer drinking, but the buzz prompted them into live performing, and they quickly rose to the top of heap in the brand new Los Angeles alternative country scene. Bassist/vocalist Paul Marshall (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Hank Thompson, Rose Maddox) threw in with the Hawks after sitting in at Ronnie Mack's Barndance in Burbank, and after brother Anthony left to pursue documentary film making, drummer Shawn Nourse (Dwight Yoakum, James Intveld) signed on for a trip to Texas and SXSW and never left. Shows all over SoCal, from their basement downtown home of Coles Bar, down Sunset to the House of Blues, and across the 405 to the Cinema Bar, garnered the Hawks two L.A. Weekly Best Country Artist awards in 2002 and 2003.
The Hawks second CD, "Grapevine," was released on the summer solstice 2004, and immediately went to #1 on the F.A.R. Chart, lingered in the Americana Chart's top 100 for months, and hit #2 on XM Radio's X Country station in January '05. Strong press 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. A strange beer commercial airing in Spain only made the Hawks a Euro presence for 15 minutes.
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" brings more bluegrass, Phase 90 country psychedelia, and steel driven honky tonk to the Hawks sonic empire (See REVIEWS page).
That summer the Hawks hit the road with Tony Gilkyson and Kip Boardman for a 57 show 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 include the Belladrum Festival with peat burning teepees near Inverness, a Vermont barn dance, an outdoor festival near Yellowstone, and Joe's Pub in NYC.
In March '08 the Hawks' 4th CD "Hallowed Ground," recorded in drummer Shawn Nourse's studio and Paul Lacques's Echo Park flat was mixed by Ethan Allen (Dengue Fever, The 88, Patti Griffin, Daniel Lanois) in January '08, with stellar guest spots from fiddlers Gabe Witcher and Dave Markowitz, pedal steel from Dave Zirbel, acoustic guitar from Rick Shea, and accordionist/pianist Richie Lawrence. Folkier and more experimental than previous Hawks outings, "Hallowed Ground" hits the street May 20, 2008.
The Hawks have ended their no video policy with numerous YouTube videos (search "I See Hawks In L.A."), including: MOTORCYCLE MAMA
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, 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 Seattle to San Diego, and all the Sans and Santas in between.
In their past musical lives, Hawks members played with Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Bonedaddys, avante garde polkameisters Rotondi, twang noir instrumentalists Double Naught Spy Car, the Aman Folk Ensemble, and many others.
"Southern California is a land of strange, dangerous and beautiful contrasts. A mountain lion prowls outside the tract home bedroom of a teenage girl while she talks, oblivious to its existence, on her cell phone. A rattlesnake slithers across an empty shopping mall parking lot on a hot summer night while the employees count up the days profit and turn out the lights. While paparazzi chase the latest talent free celebrity, a talented, literate bunch of soulful musicians create honest and wise roots music for the ages. I See Hawks are indeed one of California's unique treasures."
-- Dave Alvin, April 2008