Having performed with the likes of Abigail Washburn and Noam Pikelny, Brooklyn-based fiddler Bobby Hawk (aka Robert Hecht) is no stranger to excellence. But after years of touring, and in the aftermath of a personal breakup, something singular and new began to emerge. “It sounds cliche, but it was the end of one of those relationships where you go, ‘Screw it, I’m gonna go get a tattoo and buy a guitar,’” says Hawk. “These songs just started pouring out.” The result is Hawk’s first solo album, Lights On Kinks Out (out November 1), a sprawling indie rock opus and revelatory songwriting debut from a roots music stalwart.
Raised in a small town in central Illinois, Bobby Hawk was thrust into musical performance from an early age by his multi-instrumentalist father, who would bring him to gigs throughout the region. Eventually he began attending Mark O’Connor’s fiddle camps and festivals throughout the Midwest, where he met musicians like Casey Driessen and Noam Pikelny. His gigging with jazz, bluegrass, and country bands became a full-time professional career, moving to New York and performing alongside artists like Abigail Washburn, Noam Pikelny, Blue Merle, Phosphorescent, Heather Maloney, and Stefan Amidon. Years later, after the breakup of a relationship that had brought him to Massachusetts, Hawk found himself on the road back to New York. “The day that I drove back to New York I texted my buddies and said, ‘Hey, I’m coming back.’ And they were like, ‘Come tonight to Mona’s. You’re in the house band.’ And suddenly there was this revelation and a new sense of identity, realizing how much community I had in New York, that these were my people, this is what I do for a living.”
With this new sense of identity, Bobby Hawk sat down to begin work on his first body of solo work. After sharing some of this work with friend and producer/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Hommel (Amos Lee, Stephen Kellogg, Heather Maloney), Hawk’s cathartic exercise began to take its true form. In the studio, Hawk and Hommell crafted a tracklist that weaves its way through disparate musical influences. To realize this vision, Hawk and Hommel assembled a dream team of musicians, enlisting vocals from Ana Egge, Krystle Warren (Jonathan Wilson, Rufus Wainwright), and Zara Bode (The Sweetback Sisters), drums from Noah Bond, J.J. Armstrong, Colin Jalbert (Heather Maloney), and woodwinds and keys from Alec Spiegelman (Darlingside, Okkervil River, Kevin Morby), Seth Glier, Darby Wolf, and Zac Colwell (Of Montreal, CHAPPO). The result is a stunning achievement that channels Sun Kil Moon and Jon Brion-era Aimee Mann & Elliott Smith (“States Apart,” “Future Strangers”), Sam Amidon and Richard Buckner (“Let Things Go,” “The One,”), and Bon Iver, The Helio Sequence and early cuts from The National & Elbow (“Long Gone,” “Time & Time Again,” “Hammer”). As its ballast, however, Lights On Kinks Out has Bobby Hawk’s haunting baritone, underpinned by his first-hand, intimate understanding of the heartbreak and harmony in country duet balladry, (“Carry Me Through”) and the structural movement of a folk song (“Salt & Liquor”). Like a scar or a tattoo, Lights On Kinks Out is the mark of a change from what was, a reminder that something singular and new has begun to emerge.
Today Glide is excited to premiere “States Apart”, a clear standout on Lights On Kinks Out. The song is a slow and haunting ode to the perils of being lonesome and over imbibing. With his melancholy vocals front and center, Hawk takes the listener down a dark road with a soundtrack that blends desert guitar and with saxophone and psychedelic sounds that are reminiscent of Pink Floyd and the Beatles at their trippiest. With its potent mix of gothic Americana and ominous psychedelia, the song demonstrates just how creatively dynamic Hawk is as an artist.
Hawk describes the inspiration behind the song:
“Sam Amidon’s brother Stefan has the idea for Zara to come in singing before me on this one. It wreaks of drinking too much (Hank Williams) & finding yourself through the cloud of brown liquid. We couldn’t help but add the Pink Floyd saxophone and bass guitar. Add some Beatles psychedelic guitar for the perfect cocktail.”
Photo credit: Chelsea Clarke