I See Hawks In L.A.
Formed in 2000 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 Emmylou Harris.
Jackson set up a few mics and recorded Rob and Paul, playing along on bass. 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 tweaks 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 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 fulltime, drummer Shawn Nourse (Dwight Yoakum, James Intveld) signed on for a trip to Texas and SXSW and never left. Kickass electric shows all over SoCal, from House of Blues 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. Rave 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.
The Hawks' third CD, "California Country," with guest spots from Chris Hillman, Rick Shea, Cody Bryant, Danny McGough, Tommy Funderburk, and other SoCal roots brethren, is a leap forward and backwards, both more progressive and aggressive on the electric/psychedelic front, and more stripped down on the acoustic numbers. 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.
Summer 2006 brought the Hawks to 30 states, England, and Scotland, performing 57 shows to intimate living room audiences, honky tonks, and big outdoor festivals. Co-billed with some of their favorite artists--Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dave Alvin, The Blasters, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon, everybodyfields, Tony Gilkyson, Randy Weeks, The Meat Puppets, and Mike Stinson--the Hawks feel a strong sense of community with the roots country tribe.
In May 2008 the Hawks released "Hallowed Ground," with guest spots from fiddlers Dave Markowitz and Gabe Witcher, pedal steeler Dave Zirbel, and forays into Celtic music, Tex Mex, and more of the Hawks psychedelic country rock and folk textures and harmonies. "Hallowed Ground" hit #1 on the FAR Chart, #4 on the Euro Chart, and got lots o' great reviews.
In Summer 2008 the Hawks did a brief but memorable tour of Northern Ireland and the Down On The Farm festival in Norway.
Rob Waller and Paul Lacques had two songs on the Grammy nominated CD from Texas roots supergroup Polka Freakout. Hallowed Ground was featured in the HBO series True Blood, as two yuppies drained the blood from an aging vampire. This inspiring brush with big media has left the band with a warm fuzzy glow.
Look for the acoustic version of the band in February 2009 at the Folk Alliance national conference in Memphis. As always, the band is working on songs for a new CD. They're trying to shake their eco apocalyptic vision and lyrics theme, but it's no use. At least the reality of the times is catching up with the songs.
The Hawks have been featured performers in concert series including: The Ash Grove 50th Anniversary at UCLA, Sunset Junction (Silverlake), downtown L.A.'s California Plaza series, Seattle Hempfest, the Skirball Center, Old Town School of Folk Music Chicago, Joe's Pub in Manhattan, McCabes, The Folk Music Center, and the Getty Museum.
In 2003 The Hawks scored a "Modern Marvels" for the History Channel, a documentary on American cattle ranching from its roots in 19th century Texas to modern mega-factory-farms. The Hawks made soundscapes with old time fiddle, dobro, and jawharp, and brought the music to modern times with some Merle Haggard's Strangers-type country stomp and some space age (al la "Jetsons") guitar and human beat box.
In their past musical lives, in bands ranging from 60's psychedelia, hardcore bluegrass, avant garde polka, world beat, circus, cabaret, 80's country and world beat, to experimental guitar instrumental music, the Hawks members have scored a feature film and several documentaries, provided songs, and appeared in countless movies and television shows, including, in rough chronological order:
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, McCabe And Mrs. Miller, Tapeheads, Far Out Man,
Just One Of The Guys, Chain Of Desire, Blood Ties, Hacks, Condo Painting, Fools Gold,
Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka’ehukai
network and cable TV:
Crime Story, Shasta McNasty, Modern Marvels: Gadgets, Modern Marvels: Coffee,
Plastic Surgeryland (VH-1)
The Hawks can usually be found in their native habitats: The Cinema Bar in Culver City, Ronnie Mack's Barn Dance, McCabes, Folk Music Center in Claremont, The Grand Old Echo, Pappy and Harriets and Gramfest in the high desert, and Ben Vaughn's Wonder Valley Music Fest at the Palms bar, even further out in the middle 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.
Brian Whelan (Solo)
With instrumental abilities that made him a can someone do my paper for me key member of Dwight Yoakam’s band, a voice reminiscent of Jackson Browne and a Top 10 lyrical streak that makes him seem like he’s been writing hook-laden hits for years – Brian Whelan is poised to buy customized essays attract a much wider audience with the release of his second solo album Sugarland.
Whelan, who majored in music at USC, plays almost anything with keys or strings — steel guitar, accordion, piano. On Sugarland, he truly puts his skills to the test, playing just about every musical instrument possible on these crisp, clean, streamlined, mostly mid-tempo pop rock tunes that go straight to the heart with a sonic sense that recalls the heyday of great radio.
Co-Produced by fellow Yoakamite, drummer Mitch Marine, alongside bassist Lee Pardini, Sugarland boldly throws Whelan’s hat into a ring crowded with the likes of John Fullbright, Sturgill Simpson, Mike Stinson, and Jason Isbell. His jangling, straight-ahead tunes like “Sugarland”, “Talk To Me” and “We Got It All,” serve notice, right out of the box, that Whelan’s grown as a songwriter, arranger, and vocalist.
After the summery, top-down lilt of the pop tunes, Whelan takes it to another level with a wry, you-lookin’-at-me, back-hand slap at a genre that he believes is mostly bloated milquetoast these days. “Americana” is his jet-blast of defiance, a withering critique of a genre overrun with Civil War outfits, mountain man beards, Deliverance-style overalls, vintage dresses, cowgirl boots, and de rigeur phoney hillbilly nasal intonation. Whelan lays bare all the calculated looks and half-hearted music with a blistering guitar behind his hell-fire-and-brimstone sarcasm: “C’mon, man, you gotta make the scene / with your big bass drum and your tambourine / You can sell it for a million dollars.” Whelan’s lyrics take a sharper turn when he tells the ultimate truth: “You’re a pretty nice guy but you sound like shit.”
Whelan adds to the sarcasm with a blistering Scruggs-inspired banjo solo by veteran LA picker Herb Pedersen over the punkish rock that makes the song and the sentiment come full circle. Even so, Americana radio is going to have a hard time ignoring this unstoppable and instantly likeable blazer.
But for all the fun of his rockers, Whelan frequently displays a rare gift for capturing the serious, the lyrical epitaph of the flailing relationship. On the brooding track, “Sucker Punch”, he warns, “I’ve got a sick sense of humor and I’m sure you know / I’m a sucker puncher when I get this low.” The fatalistic “bombs away, bombs away” chorus is pure California country rock of the highest order.
On “The Only Thing,” Whelan locates a cool, Buddy Holly-fronting-The-Clash urgency in this radio-friendly rocker. The track’s narrator laments how he “tried to run with a different crowd but I just kept falling down / A change of clothes and a new routine / Wound up right right back here at the beginning” It’s a perfect example of a rocker love song. Jackson Browne should be charting with this tune.
Another Sugarland highlight is the lazy country rocker, “Number One Fan”. Whelan sketches the borderline-rabid superfans that guys like Yoakam contend with everywhere they go – One must balance an artists desire to please his fans with maintaining some degree of privacy. Judging from the lyrics, Whelan has heard just about every variation on this theme in his own tenure with Yoakam and others.
The album is a natural extension of Whelan’s way under-appreciated debut, Decider, and with its radio-friendliness, Sugarland should go far in spreading the word about Whelan and his ever growing importance on the Los Angeles scene and across the country as well. The world will soon know that Whelan and Sugarland are the real deal.
William Michael Smith, Houston, TX