Album Review – Hawk – I’m on Fire

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There’s something really familiar and warm about the sound of a confident three-chord progression, a steady cowbell, and regularly-occurring guitar solos. It’s the sound of classic rock, and there’s a reason why it’s classic. David Hawkins and his band Hawk recognize that there’s a staying power in the electricity that runs through the discographies of AC/DC, Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd – and their 2014 release I’m On Fire, slated for a remastered release on November 24th, 2016 tries to harness some of that power for itself.

From the opening riff of lead track “Mother Road”, which seems to take its cues from the crunchy swagger of Lenny Kravitz’s “I Want To Fly Away”, I’m On Fire declares its intent to slide neatly into the regular rotation of your local FM classic rock station. With simple verse-chorus structures, Mick Jagger “hoo-hoo”’s and Southern-fried guitar solos, it’s clear that Hawk have been doing their homework and studying hard.

Still, while they’ve come close to nailing down the sound of the Morning Drive’s usual suspects, Hawk’s songs often have trouble taking off and really hanging with the big boys. Part of this might come from a reluctance to stray too far from the main signposts of the genre, preferring to stick to solid rhymes about taking it easy, letting it roll, romantic regrets, and listening to the radio. Although these themes can be pretty universal, and plenty of bands have made it big with simpler messages than these, Hawk’s songs almost seem hesitant to linger on lyrics or ideas. Instead, verses and choruses tend to repeat without development, as if they were just necessary evils to get to the next solo.

This kind of reverence holds a lot of these songs back – but I’m On Fire really starts to shine in the back half of the record, where it seems less preoccupied with playing it safe as a showcase for Hawk’s 70s chops. The nearly 7-minute “Sunshine” slows it down and adds a tambura drone to the band’s palette, turning the song into a psychedelic-grunge meditation that, refreshingly, doesn’t seem in a hurry to go anywhere. Meanwhile, “C’mon Edie” pushes Hawkins’ already-quavering voice into J. Mascis territory with a vulnerable homage to his own grandmother and fragile memory. “True” wanders farthest from the record’s blueprint and somehow steals the show with college-rock jangly guitars, handclaps, and peppy vocals.

I’m On Fire is a strong effort from a band with a good musical vocabulary and a lot of promise. The album sees a remastered release on the 24th of November. Hawk is currently working on a follow-up, featuring guest stars from The Jayhawks, R.E.M., and Elvis Costello’s first backing band, The Attractions, who will surely help them take their work to the next level.

Review – Dan Corber

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