Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bohemian Hoedown

Imagine yourself in a small cabin in the mountains north of Santa Cruz, California. There’s a small fire burning in the stone fireplace just warm enough to burn away the Pacific fog creeping through the space underneath the door.  People are gathered in the main room. Some are tuning their instruments, others are twisting up a reefer or two and still others are pouring pints of home brew. Everybody gets settled and the picking begins.

That cabin, that scene, is where the latest disc from the California band I See Hawks In LA takes me.  This CD, titled A New Kind of Lonely, is their fifth release (sixth if you include their “hits” collection) and, in a departure from their other work, is performed solely with acoustic instruments.  Foregoing their electric guitars and pedal steel, I See Hawks In LA have turned in a solid piece of work that simultaneously enhances and expands their singularly exquisite sound.

Not quite country, not quite rock, I See Hawks In LA create music that might best be described as a twenty- first century manifestation of that high lonesome sound first introduced to the world by Bill Monroe and other bluegrass pioneers.  This CD, given the fact of its entirely acoustic performances, emphasizes that link to the lonely hollers of Southern Appalachia that one hears in songs like “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Uncle Pen,” or “I’ll Fly Away.”  The difference lies in the song’s topics.  Instead of Kentucky, Jesus, or moonshine, New Kind of Lonely includes songs about Austin, the Grateful Dead, and weed.  Unlike previous releases, the songs here tend toward more personal situations; personal situations that represent a life outside the mainstream.  After opening with a song titled “Bohemian Highway” the listener travels this highway while entertained with tales from the outlands of California’s bohemia.  It is a bohemia birthed in the hippie/freak culture of the 1960s and 1970s and still celebrated in song, literature and some folks’ daily lives.  Like the best fiction emerging from this metaphysical realm (Vineland by Pynchon, Already Dead: A California Gothic by Denis Johnson), there are also warnings of the dangers one might find in a culture that accepts drug use and drifting as aspects of its essence.

Certain vocalists are instantly recognizable.  One of those singers is the aforementioned Bill Monroe.  Others include Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Mahalia Jackson, Bonnie Raitt and Leonard Cohen, to name just a few. The vocals of I See Hawks In LA’s Paul Waller fall into this category.  The smoothness of his delivery (unlike Dylan or Young, whose singing is anything but smooth) does not muffle its sweetness or singularity. There are songs of joy and songs of warning.  Songs about wandering and songs about getting hitched.

The key to I See Hawks’ is their playing.  This acoustic masterpiece features plenty of incredibly adept, pleasing even achingly beautiful guitar playing.  There are not enough superlatives to describe it.  Indeed, it could stand on its own if the vocals did not exist.  When one adds the fiddle playing of Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers), the sound becomes sublime.   In the past, I have tried to summon musicians that I See Hawks In LA reminds me of.  While not an easy task because of their genuinely unique sound, Gram Parsons, New Riders of the Purple Sage and The Byrds have come into mind.  This release has reminded me of another.  Back in the 1970s there was a group that hailed from Kentucky and Arizona called Goose Creek Symphony (they returned in the 1990s and still perform).  Their sound was a combination of rock music, clogging, horns, fiddle music and just plain awesome picking.  Every once in a while their music became something as celebratory as a group of old timers celebrating their latest batch of likker.  You feel so good; you just have to kick up something.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail