"They say what goes around comes around," Greg Hawks sings on the title track of his third solo album. The aphorism holds for this sharp Americana array, indicative of the North Carolina native's expansive musical background. Growing up in Mount Airy, Hawks heard little aside from traditional country music before his family's move to Charlotte led to a heavy dose of hard rock. Punk ultimately pushed Hawks to try guitar and drums and start his first band before migrating to Chapel Hill. That relocation coincided with Hawks' return to roots, both in his own country-plus act The Tremblers and a brief stint with the honky-tonk experts of the Two Dollar Pistols.
What Goes Around's 14 songs reflect these varied approaches. Easygoing opener "We Belong to the Sun" suggests Hawks picked up some inspiration from The Beach Boys along the way, as he marries a classic country croon with sparkling guitars and gentle harmonies from his wife, Lyn. On the title track, he adds an exaggerated drawl to power pop indicative of the record's mixing engineer and Hawks' collaborator, Chris Stamey. There's hard-charging bluegrass on "Wide Open Road," which features impressive fiddle and banjo from The Boxcars' Ron Stewart. "The lines on my face disappear like the trace/of the space you once held in my mind," the scorned singer offers. "These scars they will fade as I'm shedding the weight/of this place that I'm leaving behind."
Hawks sticks to country comfort on the album's back half: Fiddle and pedal steel grace the classic hard-luck shuffle "It'll Be Alright." Allyn Love's gorgeous steel sweeps beneath Stamey's Hammond B3 on the weeper "All You Ever Did Was Tear Me Down." Hawks even veers toward outlaw territory with "We Got Ours," a sardonic lecture offered from the perspective of a one percenter.
Hawks stumbles during the soaring chorus of the otherwise soothing "You're Not Alone," his time-worn voice wavering with vocal acrobatics beyond his reach. But for an album that encapsulates so many experiences, What Goes Around is steady and assured, like an autobiographical digest of life, times and sounds.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Age of enthusiasms."