Robert Rex Waller Jr. has spent the last sixteen years fronting I See Hawks In L.A., a California group whose cult following has found an appreciation for their hybrid style of country-rock laced with folk and psychedelic sounds. At the core of the group’s identity has always been the profoundly original lyrics of Waller. His imaginative songs have always found a match in his smooth baritone and the far out cosmic Americana sound of the band, and this can be heard over the course of I See Hawks In L.A.’s seven albums. Though they don’t often venture too far from their native Southern California, the Hawks are still going strong, playing gigs and crafting original tunes.
When he decided it was finally time to release his own solo album, the singer-songwriter wanted to step back from writing. On July 1st Waller will release Fancy Free, a collection of covers from some of his favorite artists and biggest influences. The song choices are eclectic to say the least, ranging from The Kinks (“Waterloo Sunset”) and Bob Dylan (“She Belongs To Me”) to Nina Simone, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Daniel Johnston. All of these songs carry Waller’s distinctive touch, and whether he is covering Willie Nelson’s “Me And Paul” or Utah Phillips’ “Walking Through Your Town In The Snow”, the music brings bursts of indie rock, jazz, punk, and 70’s psychedelia.
We are delighted to premiere one of the standout tracks on Fancy Free, Robert Rex Waller Jr.’s powerful, moving cover of Neil Young’s haunting classic “Albuquerque” off 1975’s Tonight’s The Night. This is easily one of Neil Young’s strongest yet underrated songs, and the choice to cover it is fitting for an artist like Waller. Of course, Waller adds his own spin on the tune, singing over trippy instrumentation with a tone that is solemn, reflective, and hopeful all at once.
Reflecting on the choice to cover this tune, Waller says, “’Albuquerque’ was one of the first songs I chose for the album because it represented the central theme I was pursuing, freedom. We’re all burdened by carrying around older versions of ourselves that no longer quite fit who we’ve become. This song is about leaving, dreaming of finding your new self in a far away place. ‘So I’ll stop where I can / Find some fried eggs and country ham / Oh, I’ll find somewhere where no one cares / Who I am’”
Listen to Rex Waller Jr.’s rendition of Neil Young’s “Albuquerque”:
Robert Rex Waller Jr. releases Fancy Free on July 1st via Western Seeds Record Company. For more music and info check out Robert Rex Waller Jr. on Facebook.