Saturday, April 11, 2020


Richard Hawley has a dark golden voice, built for solitude, a deep beacon of emotions dug deep from experience. A voice not always made for the cutting edge of modernity, his flair for melody, and for holding the tune perfectly around that melody, harking back to simpler times, at times more reminiscent of the early 1960's, behind the wave of rock'n'roll and ahead of beatlemania. A time where the Bobby's Darin and Vee could hold sway, songs of lovelorn romantics and bashful innocents filling the radio waves.

I Sleep Alone/Cole's Corner (2005)

Sheffield is a city that has always held a rich musical heritage hitting well above it's weight: Joe Cocker, the Human League and Pulp all come/came from there, Hawley one of the group of musicians linked with the latter band, at one time a tour member on guitar, at the behest of old friend Jarvis Cocker. But he had been beavering away long before then, as a member of onetime tipped for the top britpoppers, Longpigs. Combining a career as a band member with his solo work, he had already put out a couple of individual records before Longpigs broke up, each well received if breaking few waves. As the son of local legend, Dave Hawley, huge on the local pub circuit, he looked destined, like his dad, to be only world famous in Sheffield.

Lonely Night/Late Night Final (2001)

But it was when he moved to Mute records that things started to take off. Cole's Corner, issued in 2005, began a momentum, reaching the album chart top 40, hitting a chord with many critics. I Sleep Alone, the featured track for this pice, comes from this recording and is typical thereof. I remember being initially a little wrong-stepped by it, so redolent was it of that era so usually reviled for being of little value. Indeed, it took me back to revisiting some of the songs of the early 60s, the time my parents first invested in a record player, and the pile of singles that came with it and that I still have. But any lingering doubts were totally dispelled by the next one, Lady's Bridge, which took the template to another level, going gold in the process. Together with another "alone" track.

Lady Solitude/Lady's Bridge (2007)

This could have become both cloying and cliche were it all he had to offer. Truelove's Gutter risked that, albeit with a degree of archness to the arrangements, offering some sourness to the earlier sweet. And then, with Standing at the Sky's Edge, a complete volte face, embracing the full force of squalling guitars, a heavy psychedelia. The critics largely went with him for this journey, but naysayers, however complimentary, wondered quite why. (Struggling to find an "alone" track to demonstrate, I am having to invoke the old why did the skeleton go to the party alone story........)

Leave Your Body Behind/Standing at the Sky's Edge (2012)

Perhaps a little cornered as to know quite now how to proceed, his next album Hollow Meadows was a bit of a stop gap, Hawley hindered by health issues, and was little more than ungarnished demos. Thankfully, his latest, last years Further, was both a return to form and to consistency. The vocals were again the rich warming broth, the backing now evoking, slightly, a hint of the Wall of Sound production values of Phil Spector. And of course there is an "alone" track.

Alone/Further (2019)

Are you ever really alone with a Richard Hawley record?

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