For a century, Appalachia pretty well cornered the market on songs about murder, death and self-destruction. But Southern California psychedelic-alt.-country band I See Hawks in L.A. has staked its claim at least temporarily to relocate Appalachia way out West. Long known as one of SoCal's leading alt.-country acts, the Hawks on their fifth album not only lean toward the darker side of life, they also exchange electric instruments in favor of a stripped-down acoustic sound.
The Hawks punctuate their songs with a vibe and immediacy of a Tuesday night guitar pull. Punctuated by the fiddling of Punch Brother Gabe Witcher, the Hawks' sound is raw and immediate yet adeptly bathes the Hawks' trademark vivid Southern California imagery on If You Lead I Will Follow and Highland Park Serenade.
Yet rather than tunes pitching woo in the desert to a brown-skinned girl with sparkling earrings, they visit the darker corners like Your Love Is Going to Kill Me and the black humor of Big Ol' Hypodermic Needle.
While the harmonies of Rob Waller, Paul Lacques and Paul Marshall won't replace SoCal country rock legends like The Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash or Souther Hillman Furay, they capably blend their vocal talents on several cuts including New Kind of Lonely and River Run.
Though the album diverts from the familiar to relatively uncharted regions, I See Hawks' path less traveled nevertheless provides some interesting new visions and songs.