I See Hawks In L.A.

California Country

Western Seeds

For several years, I See Hawks in L.A. have been filling the void left in the Los Angeles country-rock scene by (the hopefully only hibernating) Beachwood Sparks.

On their third album, ISHLA have found confidence, maturity and their own identity. Considering the diverse backgrounds of the members and how they fell together so happenstance, the group stands poised to bring the dormant genre back.

They’re not alt country, psychedelic country or cowpunk, nor are they retro. But they’re ready to pick up the movement where it left off 30 years ago and run with it.

Friends such as Chris Hillman (mandolin), Rick Shea (various guitars) and Tommy Funderburk (background vocals) make sure a good time is had by all.

Whether cranking out rock-hard tunes like “Slash From Guns N’ Roses,” “Jackpot!” and “Barrier Reef” or mixing it up with introspection (“Midnight in Orlando”), geography (the title track), romance (“Golden Girl”) and documentary (“Byrd From West Virginia” — as in in Sen. Robert C. Byrd), ISHLA is a group to keep an eye out for.

1. Motorcycle Mama
2. Raised By Hippies
3. Midnight In Orlando
4. Slash From Guns N’ Roses
5. California Country
6. Golden Girl
7. Byrd From West Virginia
8. Jackpot!
9. The Donkey Song
10. Houston Romance
11. Hard Times (Are Here Again)
12. Barrier Reef
13. Take My Rest 

Total time: 1:02:14

External Links
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El Capitan

What Ails You


Poco meets Pink Floyd?

El Capitan, a San Francisco-based group of modern-day space cowboys, are on to something. After all, David Gilmour used a pedal steel on “Dark Side of the Moon’s” opener, “Breathe.”

Or is it Grateful Dead meets Yes? “What Ails You,” El Capitan’s first full-length, features a generous dose of fuzzed-out lap steel, sounding somewhat like Jerry Garcia’s “American Beauty”-era pedal steel; and its lyrics are esoteric enough to earn the Jon Anderson Seal of Approval. Get a load of this slice from “Silo Song”:

Salt wind dash along a pastel plain
On the feathers of an immigrant constellation
Over the siren flyways of the mariposa lane
Above an outta-place silo for the alpine grain

Rounding out the group’s well-thought-out, much-practiced sound are electric, resonator and acoustic guitars; banjo; harmonica; keyboards; accordion; violin; bass; and drums. But don’t let the rustic lineup fool you: This is about as far from bluegrass as possible.

Whatever planet El Capitan is from, rest assured they come in peace — to grab listeners with a tractor beam of solid musicianship, rural themes and laid-back melodies, and transport them to the far corners of the cosmos. At least until the CD ends.

1. Manzanita I
2. Osage Orange
3. Bonny Doon
4. May
5. Metronome
6. Cat’s Cradle
7. Silo Song
8. Key Of K
9. Manzanita II
10. Fare Alone Sound
11. Clementine Bells

Total time: 35:47

External Tracks
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Miles of Music

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Dog Days


After deconstructing and reconstructing itself not once but twice, BR549 is back as a leaner unit, with an album recorded differently than the others and a fresh outlook.

Opting to reunite as a quartet rather than a quintet, the remaining three original members (including the prodigal multi-instrumentalist who had left to be Bob Dylan’s pedal steel player) recruited a new bassist and started from scratch in the studio, without the usual new songs already broken in on tour.

All the personnel changes and time off seem to have been beneficial, as “Dog Days” is an invigorating batch of songs. The retro shtick has been toned way down, and there’s some genuine experimentation in the arrangements.

“Poison” sounds like it could be a damn good “O Brother, Where Art Thou” outtake. “Lower Broad St. Blues” is a perfect song for Dan Hicks to cover on his next album. The piss-and-vinegar “Leave It Alone” has some of the tastiest twang this side of Duane Eddy — but with all the verve of a classic Webb Wilder tune. Special guests the Jordanaires lend a gospel flavor to “The Devil and Me.” And any album that covers a Dave Edmunds song, in this case “A-1 on the Jukebox,” has got to be hip.

1. Poison
2. After The Hurricane
3. Lower Broad St. Blues
4. Leave It Alone
5. Bottom Of Priority
6. The Devil And Me
7. I’m Goin’ Down
8. You Are The Queen
9. Cajun Persuasion
10. A-1 On The Jukebox
11. Let Jesus Make You Breakfast

Total time: 37:04

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iTunes Store

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Carlos Guitarlos

Hell Can Wait


While some of the songs on his two solo albums undoubtedly are blues, the music of Guitarlos (aka Carlos Daniel Ayala) is unclassifiable — so much of it falls into the rock ’n’ roll, country, boogie-woogie, swing, R&B, Cajun, doo-wop, soul and Tex-Mex domains, as well as grey areas between. Like the one-sheet says: “File under roots/Americana/blues.”

His first solo album, 2003’s “Straight From the Heart,” was hailed as comeback of the year. To make a long story short: He went from member of Van Halen-immortalized 1980s L.A. punk-blues group Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs to down-and-out San Francisco street musician before pulling himself up by the seat of his pants and getting his act together.

Needless to say, this guy plays and sings with the conviction of someone who’s, well, been to hell and back. This is cut-the-crap, real-deal stuff — no posing, no corporate-dictated schlock.

Helping Guitarlos out with his sophomore effort (again released on Nomad, a label started by his nephew) are kindred musical spirits David Hidalgo and Gene Taylor, with occasional background vocals from Marcy Levy (who also duets on “I Found Someone”). Returning for production duties is Marc Doten, of Double Naught Spy Car fame.

1. Love Me From The Start
2. Got No Time
3. Get Back
4. Shake My Blue
5. Save A Dance
6. I Found Someone
7. Here I Come
8. Drinkin’ Again
9. Say You Love Me
10. Keep Me Satisfied
11. Woman On My Mind
12. My Old Dead Body
13. Baby’s Coming Back Home
14. Shake With My Baby
15. Making Better
16. I Feel Love
17. Sure Is Good
18. Hole In My Pocket
19. I’ve Been Dead Since You’ve Been Gone

Total time: 53:19

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The Gourds

Blood of the Ram

Eleven Thirty

Enough can’t be said about this Austin, Texas-based group. If every band wrote, played and sang as well as the Gourds, music fans would be in heaven.

“Blood” is their shining hour. “TTT Gas” is a song Roger McGuinn should consider doing — it’s perfect for him; “Illegal Oyster’s” musical saw is just the right touch to cap off a near-perfect tune; and “Let Him In” has a swirling, carousel-type organ sound to die for.

The Gourds have a musical kinship with the late, great Doug Sahm, so enough said. Their surreal folk-country-rock thing and the most offbeat lyrics this side of Fagen and Becker — usually satirizing Southern stereotypes and lifestyles — have endeared them to folks who easily tire of radio drivel, and that’s across all music categories.

1. Lower 48
2. TTT Gas
3. Escalade
4. Illegal Oyster
5. Arapaho
6. Wired Ole Gal
7. On Time
8. Do 4 U
9. Let Him In
10. Cracklins
11. Spanky
12. Blood of the Ram
13. Turd in My Pocket

Total time: 48.2 minutes

External Links
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iTunes Store

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