L.A.’s alt-country stalwarts celebrate a solid new album at McCabe’s

I See Hawks in LA release “Live and Never Learn” later this month

It will come as no surprise to fans of I See Hawks in LA that the celebrated ensemble’s “Live and Never Learn,” their first album since 2013’s “Mystery Drug,” is rife with natural imagery. The deserts and flora of their beloved California have loomed as large in their music as harmonies, enviro-political concerns and country shuffles since their self-titled 2001 debut.

But along with pedal steel-gilded evocations of natural beauty (“Ballad for the Trees,” “Last Man in Tujunga,” “The Isolation Mountains”), there’s a notable consciousness of time rippling through “Live and Never Learn.” Frontman Rob Waller and guitarist Paul Lacques both lost parents while making the album, and the proverbial ties that bind — of human to human, individual to community, and mammal to land — figure thoughtfully in its 14 tracks. Its official release isn’t until June 29 but Waller, Lacques, bassist Paul Marshall and drummer Victoria Jacobs will celebrate Sunday at
McCabe’s with keyboardist Danny McGough and fiddler Dave Markowitz as well as Tony Gilkyson, who will open with a set of his own.

Waller says he and Lacques came up with the churning “King of the Rosemead Boogie” during one of their semi-regular jam sessions with San Gabriel Valley ensemble Old Californio (rarely seen onstage these days), who added some lyrics. “Singing in the Wind” cites “Wuthering Heights” characters who “still walk the moors unsatisfied,” while “White Cross” (“If you play the devil’s music he likes to come along/ I know the angels love me even though I did them wrong”) spins and slides in a tasty guitar arrangement by Gilkyson. Both were composed with Peter Davies of UK duo the Good Intentions, part of a batch of about 15 co-written mostly via email — a “very acoustic/folky” collaboration, per Lacques, representing a “cool new direction and influence for us.” It’s mostly finished, but has been back-burnered until early 2019 so the Hawks can fly with “Live and Never Learn.”

— Bliss Bowen

I See Hawks in LA celebrate “Live and Never Learn” at 8 p.m. Sunday (June 10) at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Tickets are $15. Call (310) 828-4497 or visit iseehawks.com.