There once was a time when supergroups, those unique combinations of musicians who had already achieved great success with other bands before banding together, regularly roamed the earth, but over time these collections and configurations of musicians seemed to happen less and less. Then along comes the High Hawks, an all-star roster of talent from the jamgrass and roots scene, featuring Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), Adam Greuel (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans), Brian Adams (DeadPhish Orchestra) and Will Trask (Great American Taxi). Unlike some of their past supergroup brethren who were simply a list of impressive names on album sleeve, the High Hawks are something different, not just a collection of artists coming together to make a quick buck or satisfy a record deal. With the deep, shared, history amongst all of them, they truly are the sum of their parts, and that sum is explosive.
On their debut album the High Hawks have crafted an album that, while at moments subtly hints of their other bands, is a brand new presence and personality; a whole new musical identity. With the combined might of all the songwriters in the band who all have a sharp eye for the world in disarray around them, the High Hawks attempt to make sense of this world of pandemics, political strife, and social ills.
For the outspoken and politically-minded Herman, the High Hawks provide the perfect outlet as the band has a clean slate with no preconceived ideas or notions of what to expect. He says the High Hawks, “Want to use the tools of country rock music to send out a warning and a lot of love in these strange, strange times.” His timely “Bad, Bad Man,” does just that.
Led by Carbone’s hyperactive fiddle, “Bad, Bad Man,” addresses a president and man who, “Don’t know what he’s doing, he just flies around and screams,” and hits close to home following events of the past few months. While on the reggae-ish “Blue Earth,” Carbone also takes aim and sings of, “Tears of terror and jealousy and rage/ Tears for the refugees in their cages.” The inclusion of Woody Guthrie’s “Fly High,” finds the band slowing things down with an introspective, hopeful look for love.
Musically the High Hawks sound like the long-lost rebellious love-child of Willis Alan Ramsey and Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Band. The album opens with Staehly’s,”Singing a Mountain Song,” which sets the stage for the rest of the album with its barrelling, rumble of energy. With a band whose foundations are built upon live music and the improvisation that happens on stage, it is not surprising that the High Hawks is a loose, freewheeling affair that has the warmth and coziness of a late-night jam with friends. At its core the beauty and simplicity of the High Hawks and their album is just that, the connection between friends and the deep relationships among the six musicians in the High Hawks who are not just a supergroup, but more importantly a band.