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I See Hawks in L.A.

I See Hawks in L.A. – 2001 (Ethic)

Reviewed by Michael Berick

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CDs by I See Hawks in L.A.

When you first listen to I See Hawks in L.A., you hear the staples of Southern California country rock - sunny harmonies and a Flying Burritos Brothers vibe - with a bit of bluegrass mixed in. But listen closely and you'll notice that they're often giving the genre a twist. How else can you describe a group whose lonesome ode "Duty To Our Pod" is a love song about whales?

These cosmic cowboys often seek "the beautiful narcotic place" that they sing about. And, not surprising given the band's name, flying references abound here, from planes to birds to the man who is "100 feet up in a tree". Despite their somewhat skewed approach, their music is grounded by top-notch playing (particularly from fiddler Brantley Kearns and guitarist/lap steel player Paul Lacques) and strong vocals. Besides the group's fine harmonies, frontman Robert Rex Waller moves smoothly between a rough-hewn singing style and a sweeter, Parsons-like croon. Whether they're tweaking country rock, as in the humorous honky-tonker "Don't Bury Me', or simply creating the stirring dysfunctional family portrait "To the Snow," the L.A.-based band acquits themselves quite nicely on their debut. (Ethic)