I See Hawks in L.A. plan new album March 6

I See Hawks in L.A. have released five critically acclaimed albums since they began writing songs in their Echo Park living rooms 11 years ago. The band’s sound layers electricity and Southern California psychedelia over acoustic guitars and rich vocal harmonies.

Meanwhile, fans have always treasured the Hawks’ acoustic shows, where Rob Waller’s rich voice, the band’s subtle guitar arrangements, and the dark, literate lyrics take the spotlight. A three-year one-mic acoustic series hosted by the band at Cole’s bar in downtown L.A., and memorable acoustic shows all over the U.S. with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Chris Hillman, and Dave Alvin, have honed the Hawks’ sound.

So in 2012, the End of the World according to the Mayan calendar, I See Hawks In L.A. will finally release that acoustic album, New Kind of Lonely, recorded live in a circle at Marc Doten’s Echo Park studio with lovely German microphones. Street date is set for February 21 on Western Seeds Records.

It’s been a long and colorful journey for L.A.’s best-known alt-country band. Countless whiskey-fueled shows from Santa Monica to downtown to the high desert with Mike Stinson, Randy Weeks, Tony Gilkyson and dozens of other artists spawned a now-thriving roots country scene amidst the palm trees and yuccas. Four I See Hawks In L.A. releases notched #1 on the Freeform American Roots (FAR) Chart, and several have hit the Euro Americana Top 10. Dave Alvin has cited the Hawks as “one of California’s unique treasures.”

Treks to Europe and U.K. and repeated tours through most of the 50 states have created a solid following scattered across the globe. “We thrive in the margins,” the Hawks always say. New Kind of Lonely could be the recording to push them into prominence.

On every track, shimmering textures of Martins and Gibsons and upright bass, with touches of dobro and some beautiful fiddle from Gabe Witcher, embellish haunted themes. Death and loss, in very personal terms, weave into almost every song. L.A. Americana’s favorite sister, fiddler/songwriter Amy Farris, is mourned lyrically; the sorrow waiting at the end of every long and joyous marriage is explored in the bittersweet “Your Love Is Going To Kill Me (Someday).”

In reaching back to pre-electric traditions, the Hawks seem to have tapped into the mortality that looms in the work of Hank Williams, The Stanley Brothers, and the Carter Family, far from the feel-good suburbiana of today’s Nashville songwriting.  Dark times do need some kind of acknowledgement. I See Hawks In L.A. have taken this on.

But much of the music is rocking and uplifting. “Big Old Hypodermic Needle,” a black humored two beat about two best friends overdosing, is perfect for a barn dance. “Hunger Mountain Breakdown,” in which the singer plans a dramatic ridgetop suicide, is driven by Cliff Wagner’s kickass bluegrass banjo and Gabe Witcher’s virtuoso fiddling. “The Spirit of Death” is hard charging Cajun rock. “I Fell In Love With the Grateful Dead,” a compendium of the three bandmates’ Dead show experiences over four decades, ventures into jam band territory, with lots of notes expended on guitar and bass.

I See Hawks In L.A. will launch New Kind of Lonely with, appropriately enough, an acoustic show at McCabe’s (February 24), followed by an electric version of the new tunes at Pappy & Harriet’s (March 10) in the high desert. The band will tour North Carolina in May and will also perform at the Strawberry Festival in California's Sierras. Over the summer they will hit the road to places new and familiar.

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