I See Hawks in L.A.

I See Hawks in L.A.

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I See Hawks in L.A. takes a slightly more cerebral approach to country music. This is not to say the genre is overrun with cavemen, but clipped onto the well-worn bootheels of this outfit is a spur of skewed wit, intelligence, and contemplation. The music itself is the very picture of congeniality -- accomplished players strum languidly with reverence and grace, conjuring deep-seeded tradition rather than new country (aka, rock music from people in cowboy hats). There's a grass-roots essence running through the album, but the band sidesteps tradition in the lyrics with tracks like "Nicotine & Vitamin C," the lovely sunset lullaby of "The Beautiful Narcotic Place I Reside," and the saddle-shop quartet of "A Dog Can Break Your Heart Too." Furthermore, "The Mystery of Life" and "Duty to Our Pod" seem downright existentialist in their approach. The modest bari-twang vocals of Robert Rex Waller Jr. and the other contributing voices are all appropriately unpolished, and everything goes down as smooth as molasses. This self-titled debut album has too much grit and professionalism to be a novelty act, but I See Hawks in L.A. is, in fact, such a smart band that they practically alienate themselves from the genre they fit so well. Also, the fact that they received an award for Best Country Band in the city of Los Angeles only furthers the notion that the quintet is a little left of center. With a nod and a dry smirk, these boys are the best-kept secret in philosophical tongue-in-cheek Southern hospitality that California has to offer. Only you can decide how vital that is, but rest assured these boys can play.

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