The HawtThorns “Tarot Cards and Shooting Stars”

Mule Kick Records 2022

Smooth sounds and a great voice for a summer’s day – if we ever get one!

The press release for the second album by husband and wife duo KP and Johnny Hawthorn, The HawtThorns’ describes their work thus:

An Americana band whose sun-kissed song-writing, versatile guitar work, and lush vocal harmonies evoke the California coastline as much as the Bible Belt countryside, the HawtThorns are rooted in the collaborative chemistry of husband-and-wife duo KP and Johnny Hawthorn.

And there’s little reason to quibble. Or as Iain Anderson of Radio Scotland fame would have it,

The album’s West-coast Americana sound evokes the California coastline, with emotive songwriting, lush harmonies and great guitar, strings and organ, all in the mix’.

The pair were successfully established in their own musical careers before meeting and joining forces and here’s a further summary of their background and history – KP’s time with Calico provides a clue as to what’s on offer here,

California native KP (formerly Kirsten Proffit) launched her solo career with 2006’s Lucky Girl, whose songs found their way onto TV shows like Friday Night Lights and Dawson’s Creek. By 2012, she was also touring the country with Jaime Wyatt and Manda Mosher as a member of CALICO, a trio of songwriters whose music paid tribute to California’s country-rock golden days. The group hit the ground running, playing 200 shows during their first year together. CALICO was a true collaboration, too — a group whose members shared songwriting and singing duties — but after two albums together (both of which were co-produced by KP), the band called it quits.

A songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, lead guitarist, and record producer, Johnny had already performed with bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket and Everclear by the time he crossed paths with KP. He’d also released three albums as a solo artist, with Guitar Player Magazine likening his phrasing to Jimi Hendrix and his vocal melodies to the Eagles.

There was some initial debate as to whether this collection fitted into the AUK remit – but given that there has never been any agreement as to what that remit might actually be it seemed only reasonable to give it a go. There is no denying that, ‘Tarot Cards and Shooting Stars’, might readily be called easy listening, but what exactly is up with that – it probably beats hard listening every time? It brought to mind Fleetwood Mac, (and judging by the cover its looks like KP might have been shopping with Stevie Nicks) or some of the more mellow Eagles material, especially on the track ‘Lotta Love’. The Macsters have had their experimental moments but equally are not averse to a foot-tapping groove with a catchy chorus and, ‘lush vocal harmonies’, that evoke the California coastline’. ‘Lotta Love’, replicates that groove with precision. It’s the only non-original material. It’s also probably one of Neil Young’s weaker lyrics but this version makes the best of it and is probably the strongest cut on the album. Other highlights include, ‘Baby It’s a Gift‘, and, ‘The One That Got Away’.

The HawtThorns score most readily with the quality of KP’s voice which is as good as anything this reviewer has heard in a while – it’s effortless with none of the self-conscious showing off or straining to be found amongst some who are similarly blessed. The musical side of things is well taken care of though there are few highlights and references in the band biography to the Allman Brothers might leave you a little puzzled – John Hawthorns interjections are tasteful but lack the fire associated with classic offerings by les freres. There are several acoustic tracks and the best of them is probably, ‘The One That Got Away’, which just has a really nice feel to it – in terms of the storyline it’s a rather predictable boy meets girl and dreams of the open road affair. That said, ‘One Human at a Time‘, does hint at the possibility of more, with its plea for tolerance and understanding.

If the lyrics are less than challenging and offer little out of the ordinary either in their storylines or by way of any telling couplets or original insights then the real question is – does it do what it says on the tin? The answer is pretty much yes. There are no pretensions here and in terms of hitting a target, that of, ‘lush vocal harmonies’,  that evoke a certain west coast feel, then job done.

The HawtThorns between them cover guitars, vocals, keyboards, percussion and mandolin and are assisted by Matt Lucich on drums, Eliot Lorango on bass and Sasha Smith on keyboards. Kaitlin Wolfberg takes care of strings.

Finally, you might well be wondering about that singular spelling of the name – and here’s the answer,

‘It is our last name but there were several bands with the name The Hawthorns. We thought we’d take the southern twist on the word ‘hot’ (hawt) and make our own word out of it – pronounced Hot-Thorns’.

So there you go.


About Gordon Sharpe 117 Articles
Retired music fan longing to get back to the Lakes and hoping to visit Scotland before much longer - somehow South Cheshire just doesn't cut it. Still seeking the grail in terms of a convincing description of what Americana really is but really enjoying the search. And still wondering when Kenny Rogers will get his just deserts
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