CD REVIEW: Shanna & the Hawk - Shanna & the Hawk
By Kevin Zarnett - 11/28/2005 - 02:26 PM EST
Artist: Band: Shanna & the Hawk
Album: Shanna & the Hawk
On their self-titled full-length debut, Shanna & the Hawk brand themselves as a strong musical outfit, delivering a solid set of mostly brooding tunes with a bluesy-twang.
Formed in Portland, Maine four years ago, the band's core of Shanna Underwood (vocals) and Haakon "The Hawk" Kallweit (vocals, guitars) are now based in Nashville. Each half of the duo contributes five of their songs, and alternate lead vocals from song to song through much of the disc (Shanna handles a couple more than The Hawk), with their counterpart offering up harmonies.
Interestingly, there isn't really a high lonesome sound among the two, with Shanna's voice on the bluesy-rock side of country, and the Hawk's with the gruff flavor of a heartland rocker. Both singers are effective, and the two lead voices keep the songs from stalling in sameness-ville. Their harmonies do well supporting the lead, notably on "Ain't Gonna Give Up", "Regina” and the aching "When Love is Gone", but don't distinguish themselves as an entity of their own.
In addition to drums and stand-up bass, band regulars Rob Sylvain (dobro) and Joe Bloom (harmonica) help Shanna & the Hawk carve out an appealing sound, adding numerous musical flourishes throughout the CD, and combining well with some fine guitar playing from Kallweit.
The CD's opener, "Willingly", demonstrates the best the band has to offer in every respect. Musically, it plays like a gentle sunrise, with a soulful harp and its dobro match, and a lyric that awakes to the hard living of a musician's life, creating a sound reminiscent of Whiskeytown's quieter moments. When Shanna sings "but my fingers getting torn, baby, busted and worn/scraping at that shell of a dream", she leaves us with little doubt she has earned those words.
There is a theme of struggle through many of the songs, both in life and love, but usually with an optimist’s eye. This is the case with "Ain't Gonna Give Up" and its persevering refrain, which is perhaps the albums catchiest song. Nothing new here lyric-wise, but Haakon's best, and most subtle vocal performance on the CD, carries it along.
A couple of great honky-tonk flashes, "Done It All Wrong" and the duet-closing "Married to the Moon" show-off some excellent band dynamics, and a sense of fun and humor that keeps the action moving.
Most of the songs on "Shanna & the Hawk" don't grab your attention so much as hold it (no big-time hooks or radio sing-alongs), but are well-crafted with few mis-steps. Kallweit, also in the role of producer, along with dobro player Rob Sylvain, who serves as the recording's engineer, create a live-in-the-studio sound to the CD, that further enhances the material.
For more information on Shanna & the Hawk, visit www.shannahawk.com
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