Drop the needle on The High Hawks’ self-titled debut album, and you’ll hear the musical equivalent of an experience you’ve probably missed and desperately want to enjoy again — a bunch of friends hanging out.
“That’s exactly what it is,” High Hawks member Vince Herman says. “We love hanging with each other, and making this album was a way to do it.”
That comfortable, in-person connection that only occurs during a gathering of friends has been in desperately short supply over the last year. Even more so for a gaggle of musicians who built their individual careers in the Americana/bluegrass/jam band circuit where in-the-moment creative interaction is the central tenet. Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth and Blue Sparks From Hell), Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans), Adam Greuel (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Brian Adams (DeadPhish Orchestra and Great American Taxi), and Will Trask (Great American Taxi) had all crossed paths over the last two decades or more, secured mutual friendships, and agreed that “We all should get together someday.” But as the saying goes, easier said than done!
“With a bunch of guys in all different bands it was pretty complicated to get together,” Herman says. “We’re all on kinda the same touring circuit and we run into each other often. When I met Adam Gruel it was like meeting a brother. Our approaches to music and life were pretty similar, and we thought we should do some writing together. Adam and Chad both live in Wisconsin and had played together. I knew Brian and Will from playing with Great American Taxi and Tim had produced a few of our records. Our paths just conspired to put us together and it seemed so right.”
The group convened at Herman’s Colorado home in late 2019 and immediately saw the synergy of a great band coalescing — a band that needed to record an album with each member contributing song ideas. A theme that quickly became a primary focus of the sessions was fellowship, friendship, and the building of bridges over the divides between people; an especially timely theme after the deep and divisive forces that have rocked the United States in recent years.
“We wanted to throw some light on what was happening in our country at that time, deep in the throws of Trumpism,” Herman says. “We wanted people to look at what they were doing and ask is this really where we want to go?”
That theme is omnipresent throughout The High Hawks, from the front porch funky country-rock jam of songs like “Singing a Mountain Song” and “Talk About That,” to songs of self-reflection and choice like “Just Another Stone” and “When the Dust Settles Down.” “Bad Bad Man” and “Blue Earth” directly address current events with a step back for a look at the bigger picture and a step forward with anticipation for a better future.
Ironically, the political, social, and emotional divisions The High Hawks were addressing manifested on a physical, global scale just as the group put the finishing touches on the album. “We finished the session just as the world stopped,” Herman says. With live shows on lockdown, the group decided to hold off the release of the record until the in-person interaction became possible once again. Nevertheless, what might have sounded like a relic of a bygone time now sounds like a message of hope for a new world.
“We just wanted to bring people together and throw some love on it,” Herman says. And with the release of The High Hawks and a return to live performances, that’s a seasoning we’re all eager to enjoy.
The High Hawks eponymous debut is available on CD, download, & limited 180-gram blue vinyl at the LoHi Records store.