Among the press releases tumbling like steady avalanches into my inbox, rare is the announcement that includes my name beyond the salutation. Credit I See Hawks in LA guitarist Paul Lacques with knowing how to get someone’s attention.
Next Thursday the Hawks celebrate the completion of an album long in the making, “Hawks With Good Intentions,” a collaboration with Peter Davies and Gabrielle Monk, aka UK duo the Good Intentions. As Lacques reminded me in his press missive, he and Hawks drummer Victoria Jacobs befriended Davies and Monk at a musical gathering at my home in 2012, when the Good Intentions were touring California with their English/Welsh brand of Americana. A mutual admiration society took root as the Hawks and the Intentions supported each other at shows on both sides of the Atlantic.
During one stateside visit, Davies, Lacques and Hawks frontman Rob Waller met at Waller’s garage studio in Highland Park to write their first songs together — what would eventually become “Rolling the Boxcars” and “White Cross.” For the next few years they exchanged lyrics and MP3s via email, a long-distance process belied by the relaxed warmth of the songwriting and instrumental sound.
“White Cross” emerged last year on the Hawks’ “Live and Never Learn,” with a slyly loping country-blues guitar arrangement by Tony Gilkyson. The version with the Intentions follows the same melodic lines but substitutes sparkle for groove grease as it tells its tale of a Memphis musician with a taste for long odds. Throughout “Hawks With Good Intentions,” guitars, Dobro and lap steel waltz and rumble with Richie Lawrence’s accordion and Gabe Witcher’s fiddle, as Waller and Davies swap lead vocals and Monk and Hawks bassist Paul Marshall chime in with heart-lifting harmonies.
Trains, guitars, the high desert, spectral characters, and the lack of wildness in the West are recurring motifs throughout the 10 songs, which collectively represent a stylistic stretch for everyone involved, as they needed to mesh cultural, compositional and vocal differences. “Flying Now,” a ballad Davies sings and wrote with Lacques, manages to evoke both Gram Parsons and Richard Thompson while stumbling in the shoes of a homeless man “cashing in bottles along a Frogtown stream.” The train beat may echo familiarly, but incisively detailed characters of the Davies-Lacques-Waller murder ballad “Things Like This” travel deeper into the desert than the Hawks have gone before. “Epiphany on Town Hall Square” is a poignant Christmas song with an alternative perspective, yet it’s not hard to imagine it sung in an English chapel.
Davies and Monk plan to return to LA in the fall, and the Hawks are gearing up for a UK tour in July. Ben Vaughn and Old Californio frontman Rich Dembowski will join the Hawks next Thursday at Highland Park Bowl, where the Hawks have lengthy history, to celebrate the bonds of song and friendship.
“Hawks With Good Intentions” release party at Highland Park Bowl, 5621 N. Figueroa, Highland Park, at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 20; free admission. Info: (323) 257-2695. Iseehawks.com, thegoodintentions.co.uk, highlandparkbowl.com