I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. & THE GOOD INTENTIONS – Hawks With Good Intentions (Western Seeds Record Company WSR-CD014)

Hawks With Good IntentionsA team-up album that brings together the Los Angeles quartet and Liverpool folk duo Peter Davies and Gabrielle Monk, who, after several years of shared friendship and stages have finally written and recorded together, albeit largely via the internet. The result is Hawks With Good Intentions.

It opens with Davies on lead on the acoustic easy rolling partnership nod ‘Blue Heaven’ before Rob Waller steps up to bring his distinctive throaty twang to on the run murder ballad killer ‘Things Like This’, the only number on the album to feature drums. The pair then get together to duet on the simply strummed waltz-time gambling, losing and winding up behind bars ‘Rolling The Boxcars’.

Davis takes over for ‘Rambling Girl’, a folksy track that features Gabe Witcher from The Punch Brothers on fiddle, keeping the travelling imagery going with Waller on lead for the chugging wheels rhythms of ‘Steel Rails’ with its echoes of Steve Goodman.

Victoria Jacobs from The Hawks takes her sole lead vocal on ‘Hills On Fire’, written with Paul Lacques and featuring Richie Lawrence on accordion for a simple strum and harmonised song about the California wildfires sparked by climate change. Other than having the Liverpudlians provide harmonies, I’m not sure why they decided to revisit ‘White Cross’, a country blues number from The Hawks’ 2018 album Live and Never Learn, but it works well in this largely acoustic setting so who’s complaining.

Monk on harmonies, Davies sings lead on both the resigned but optimistic down on your luck (“When I left my home/I was just seventeen/Now I’m cashing in bottles/On a Frogtown street”) swayalong ‘Flying Now’, again with Lawrence on accordion, and ‘Epiphany On Town Hall Square’, a Christmassy-tinged, nativity referencing number about hope for a better future.They end with a real tearjerker, ‘Will You Watch Over Me’, the only number penned by the Hawks writing team of Lacques and Waller, a rippling acoustic guitar backdropping an American folk hymnal prayer to those who have gone before to remain a guardian angel.

A double whammy that will not only please fans of both acts but expand each other’s audience too. A win-win combination all the way round.

Mike Davies

Artists’ websites: www.iseehawks.com / www.thegoodintentions.co.uk

‘Blue Heaven’:

I SEE HAWKS IN LA – Live And Never Learn (Western Seeds WSRCD-013)

Live And Never LearnHaving released a solo covers collection in 2016, lead singer Robert Waller returns to the band nest for their first album in five years. The good news is that it’s like they’ve never been away, that familiar country rock sound with its Telecaster reverb and Waller’s vocal drawl picking up seamlessly from where they left off. On the downside, there’s one or two numbers here that may have listeners pushing the skip button on subsequent plays.

However, it takes flight in fine style with album opener ‘Ballad For The Trees’, a tribal drum beat and rhythm anchoring one of their upbeat eco-themed numbers as Waller sings “Here’s a song for the Acacia/Here’s a song for honey bees/Here’s a song just for everyone writing down their dreams.” The title track’s up next, a train time chugging country rhythm driving a song about never quite managing to do the right thing (“I try so hard to do what’s right/But that won’t get me through Friday night”), good intentions shot down by barroom shortcomings, while friends turn a blind eye.

They stay on a roll with the bluesier ‘White Cross’, one of two numbers co-penned by Waller, Paul Lacques and Peter Davies from the Good Intentions, following a similar screwing up theme with lines like “Good times didn’t suit me/I had to taste the pain” and “I know the angels love me/Even though I did them wrong.”

However, then comes ‘Stoned With Melissa’, a rocking number about getting high that put me in mind of the boogie side of early Dr. Hook, singing about smoking weed and watching Trading Places on a black and white TV. Lyrically, it takes a darker swerve towards death as it slows towards the end with a more Creedence ballad musical shape and psychedelic shades, but it doesn’t really stand up to repeat plays. The same holds true for ‘King Of The Rosemead Boogie’, a ZZ Top-like track that probably burns live but doesn’t hold the attention on disc. To this list I’d also add the simply country chug ‘Stop Me’, another number that harks to self-destructive tendencies, a decent enough filler but not strong enough to leave a lasting impression as the album closer, and also ‘Spinning,’ a gossamer-fey psych-folk number about fitful dreams written and sung by drummer Victoria Jacobs but lacking in any substantial colour.

She redeems herself, however, with the playful ‘My Parka Saved Me’, a Shangri La’s pastiche recounting the true teenage years events of how, stoned after breaking up with her boyfriend, she drove out to Lake Michigan and was involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver, saved from potentially fatal lacerations because she was wearing her brother’s parka. Backed by Danny McGough on organ, Jacobs speaks the narrative, her words then echoed in barroom twang fashion by the band along with the chorus. It’s a playful ditty that goes on to tell how, as the guy had no insurance but owned a liquor store, they sued him and she and her friends got to drink for free, at which point her and Waller’s account of things differ. It’s an amusing number but, ultimately, still a novelty track with a short-term listening lifespan.

The remaining numbers, however, all stand up: ‘Poour Me’ a country honky tonk lament about an overfondness for drink soaked in Dave Zirbel’s pedal steel; the conservation and loss themed gentle roll of ‘Planet Earth’; ‘The Last Man In Tujunga’ a country rocker with hints of CCR, the Rolling Stones (a snatch of ‘Satisfaction’) and Mike Nesmith that recounts breaking up over a mobile phone while a California wildfire flames blaze ever closer.

Two of the stronger numbers, both featuring Dave Markowitz on fiddle and accordionist Richie Lawrence, are loaded towards the end, the mid-tempo strum ‘Tearing Me In Two’ and, the other, sung and penned by producer and guitarist Paul Lacques, the ecological-rotted and Gaelic-infused shades of the slow waltzing ‘The Isolation Mountains’.

Ultimately, it’s not as consistently strong an album as the preceding Mystery Drug, but there’s still ample here to keep the ornithological fanbase happy

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.iseehawks.com

‘Ballad For The Trees’: