This is the storied, rather unheralded band I See Hawks in LA's first release since 2013's "Mystery Drug." "Live and Never Learn" continues the legacy of a band that's been together for almost two decades now. They channel Gram Parsons, New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Byrds/Burritos into their singular brand of psychedelic country rock with the superb lead vocals of Rob Waller, capable players in the core lineup as well as guests. Among the guests are: Dave Zirbel (Commander Cody) on pedal steel, Dave Markowitz on fiddle and Richie Lawrence on accordion and piano. Together, they flush out a laid-back hippy vibe, the hallmark of ISHILA's sound.
Emerging from a string of family deaths, California wild fires and various struggles, the band found some solace in finally being able to record again. The songwriting team of Rob Waller and Paul Jacques receives contributions from bassist Paul Marshall and drummer Victoria Jacobs on this outing. Members of Old Californio deliver "King of the Rosemead Boogie" and via email form Peter Davies of the U.K.'s Good Intentions we have "White Cross" and "Singing in the Wind." The latter takes us to the shores of Northern Ireland. Jacobs sings on her psychedelic folk oriented "Spinning" and recounts a tragic tale from the winter on Lake Michigan in "My Parka Saved Me."
"Last Man in Tujunga" is native territory as the story unfolds about a breakup conversation over a cell phone as the flames from a fire draw nearer. Although the song was written years ago, it is frighteningly timely as Marshall was forced to evacuate his home in the recent fires twice - lyrically stated as "almost out of minutes" as the "flames were licking at the gates."
The band has long been noted for its sense of humor which we hear on the self-pitying "Poour Me," their requisite ode to weed in "Stoned with Melissa" and their interest in conservation with "Planet Earth" and "Ballad for the Trees." Markowitz's fiddle and Lawrence's accordion drive both "Isolation Mountains" and "Tearing Me in Two," both outstanding tracks.
I See Hawks in LA are consistent with terrific story songs and solid musicianship. After the hiatus, they sound as good as ever, maybe even a little better.