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I See Hawks in L.A.

Shoulda Been Gold – 2010 (Collector's Choice)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by I See Hawks in L.A.

The premise of the title track of this compilation from I See Hawks In L.A. is that they have been denied the commercial success they deserve, but their unconventional band name, song topics and lyrics suggest they are comfortable residing outside the mainstream. Compiled from four albums released over the past decade, with a few new tracks added, the band's sound is a mix of 70's country rock, bluegrass, Bakersfield and hard-edged alt.-country.

One of the stronger tunes is Byrd From West Virginia , a bluegrass ballad that traces the transformation of Sen. Robert Byrd from the disgrace of his youth as a Klansman ("He burned the cross of Jesus in the West Virginia night/The darkness of America blinded his sight") to a lone voice in the Senate who opposed the rush to war in Iraq ("And when a reckless new President came calling out for war/Old Byrd from West Virginia/ Sang out the score: 'The doctrine of pre-emption is radical and deadly' ").

Other standouts are Raised By Hippies, the tale of a girl born in a school bus in 1968 ("She was raised by hippies in the hills of Tennessee/Raised by hippies so wild and so free/Raised by hippies they did some things wrong/But they raised their children right and they did it for a song") and Humboldt, which tells of a farmer fleeing from the DEA because of his choice of crop ("I'd be glad to plant corn in the ground/But corn don't go for $3,000 a pound").

The Salesman is an effective up-tempo bluegrass tune, Sexy Vacation has a Bakersfield sound complete with James Burton-style chicken picking from guitarist Paul Lacques, and Wonder Valley Fight Song has a hard edged alt.-country feel.

Though they may not be destined for mainstream success the quality of this material certainly merits the band more attention from the alt.-country community.