After one listen, it would be very easy to write off Hail The Size’s debut I Can’t Die in LA as the latest offering from the long line of faceless roots rock, Americana, alt-country bands trying to capitalize on the success of Wilco. But, come on, anyone with a rasp in their voice and the ability to carry a melody is going to suffer from that same swipe. But – hold on – this album stands out if given a chance. What separates this one from the pack is memorable songs, tasteful arrangements, lush, lonesome production and Maria McKee (yeah – from Lone Justice).
The songwriting team of singer/guitarist Charles Ezell and drummer/producer Matt North enlisted their talented friends to bring us 12 songs that (in their words) “range from love letters to suicide notes.” Matt Fish (cellist, Alejandro Escovedo, John Doe) and Carey Fosse (guitarist, Wayne Kramer, Not-In-The-House) add beauty and flash. In a return to form, McKee adds emotional/haunting vocals and plays “in the pocket” piano reminiscent of Nicky Hopkins or even The Band’s Richard Manual. Ezell’s vocals have an endearing quality which evokes a Buddy Holly on a bender or even a Grandpaboy-esque Paul Westerberg. North, an accomplished percussionist who has played alongside John Coltrane bassist Rafael Garrett and has studied with the great Kenny Aronoff, brings a subtle flavor which doesn’t overshadow the performances. In addition, his production shines and demonstrates he knows how to bring the best from the musicians he’s working with.
Simply put, I Can’t Die in LA is worthy of your time. It’s a slow burner that will keep you coming back and humming its songs long after the tracks have ended.