Hawktail, Formations Review
Bringing us the hip and vibrant sounds of modern bluegrass is a band with the name of Hawktail. The group is fiddler Brittany Haas, bassist Paul Kowert, guitarist Jordan Tice, and mandolinist Dominick Leslie. Building on their 2018 debut Unless, Hawktail aligned with Eldridge, veteran engineer Dave Sinko (Edgar Meyer, Béla Fleck, Sam Bush) and legendary mixing guru Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings of Leon, Shania Twain) to create a cohesive vision for their sophomore album titled, Formations. The result is a bigger picture shared by the entire band and production team that combines the group’s impressive compositional and instrumental forces. “Unless took care of the learning curve,” Tice explains, “and having done that, we were like, ‘Oh, we know how to make music together now. Let’s make another record.” Formations is co-produced by Chris Eldridge of Punch Brothers. Formations contains seven instrumental tracks that are buoyant with virtuosity and dynamics. The music is universal and challenges the category that their instrumentation suggests. “With four people, new roles appear that weren’t there before. You can have two be ‘the backing band,’ one ‘the soloist,’ and one ‘the commentator,’ for instance. The music begins to tell a vivid story,” Tice explains. Formations released on January 10, 2020.Positives: Well-crafted compositions and each player brings a level of creativity, musicianship, and technical facility that is simply brilliant. Bottom Line: Formations explores the many color and texture possibilities of each player and their respective instrument. Kowert will effortlessly switch between pizzicato and arco as well as flowing between soloist and accompanist. Each of the four players displays that level of creative diversity. The result is multiple layers of melody and supporting figures that flow through each composition. “Annbjørg,” opens the album with a Scandinavian influenced melody and feel. Kowert describes the tune as “a polyrhythmic romp inspired by one of our heroes of fiddling, Annbjørg Lien.” The composition flows through many feels, and the quartet finds ways to make the music breathe and convey many musical textures. The counterpoint between each instrument is the beauty of this track. Also, Kowert’s switching between arco and pizzicato adds to the dynamics. Haas has a warm, engaging tone and much personality in his playing.
“Last One on the Line” is a more traditional sounding selection with Leslie’s mandolin taking the melody. Leslie’s presence from the inception of the record can be felt and heard. “Our first album had more or less been written by the time I joined the band, so it was more about finding a complementary part,” says Leslie. “On Formations, I was there for the writing, which resulted in the mandolin having a fundamental role in the music.” The result is seven tracks that are a stunning blend of styles, sounds, textures, and musical passion performed by an acoustic quartet that is playful and creative. The compositions explore while keeping solid melodies as the focus. The many sonic shifts further highlight the conversational counterpoint and skilled improvisation. “We’re just trying to find something good to play,” says Tice. “We’re not interested in adhering to the same old forms—merely adding some spice to something that we all know how it’s going to end.” Formations is a deep listen, and that’s the short of it!
Connect with Hawktail: Website |
Last One on the Line
One Hour in Hungary
Release Date: January 10, 2020