The Christopher Hawley Rollers are a band you find in a juke joint on the side of Route 62, letting the dust come in and coating bar top, boots and guitar fret boards; playin’ crowd-pleasers ‘til sunrise and going home with enough money in the pocket to come back next week. At least, that’s the sound they’re maintaining, and that’s a respectable place to be for most people looking for this kind of stripped-down California Americana. The guest stars are impressive on the band’s third record and first all-studio album, Comes Around Again, seeing Bill Payne of Little Feat on keys and John Steward from the mighty Fishbone on drums. You haven’t yet found Chris on your nephew’s iPod or on Top 40 radio, but they’ll be around for years, and with a swath of followers behind them in every city from here to the Mississippi.
The songs are easy to learn, whether it’s the lyrics, the guitars, or the rhythm. Singer-songwriter Christopher Hawley isn’t afraid to polarize certain groups to maintain the songs he wants, as by the time we’re halfway through the album we know he’s anti-war and into Jesus. The songs are as unthreatening and easy-going as his voice, but it also makes some of the content ineffectual and the songs a bit lacking in power. The choruses are a little drawn out as the titles of the tracks tend to be repeated for the bread and butter of the songs. The easygoing verses work for other tracks though, like ‘Bank Robbing Man,’ ‘Home,’ and ‘Tecate On A Hot Day,’ where the simple stories and rhymes come out easy atop guitar melodies plucked by summer air and the hands of de-stress and enjoyment.
By the end of the record it’s clear we’re more likely to find Christopher Hawley in, as his Bio lists, “ski towns, beach bars, and college towns” and certainly nearer the typical folk acoustic scene. The occasional slide guitar and wispy, faraway melodies can at times feel like the old cowboy country first heard in it, but the man doesn’t seem to have any dire blues to harp on, and he probably wouldn’t try to harvest them if he did. The reality is the Rollers’ style changes up considerably song to song, from reggae to rock, folk, and gospel.
Positivity is a virtue, but there has to be some sort of drama to keep most new fans coming back for more. One thing that comes from complete coolness is that the Christopher Hawley Rollers want to leave you be. They’d love you to listen, relax, and have a “gold Tecate on a hot day” with them, but they won’t push it, they just want to push the positive scene. And with a record like Comes Around Again, all they can do is give. If it’s not a treasure chest for one, it could be for another. It’s unsuspecting, without demand, and the furthest thing from pretense you’ll find.
A weak hand for some, enough people will cheer with relief for the gentle vibes, and that explains how the band has come this far. Chris and the Rollers are on the brink of national exposure after having worked and toured internationally for over ten years, and they’ll surely continue to find their niche, whether it’s in beach bars or on the big stage. SKOPE out the Christopher Hawley Rollers on their Myspace, http://www.myspace.com/christopherhawleyrollers. The Rollers’ third record dropped on April 1st on iTunes and Amazon, so see if it’s what you need at the start of this sunny season.
By: Sean Flynn