Richard Hawley is a national treasure: I wish Bob Dylan had listened to Coles Corner before slating every record made in the last twenty-five years, as I feel sure he'd have changed his tune. As for this, his latest release, the phrase that springs most readily to mind is 'steady progress'. The opening track - Valentine - is Hawley at his most sumptuous, recalling strains of Roy Orbison and The Walker Bros, and instantly provides a link (bridge, perhaps) between Coles Corner and the new, slightly more uptempo tracks on Lady's Bridge. Roll River Roll, which follows effortlessly, is as much a career highlight as Coles Corner (the track) itself, drawing together, as it does, all those influences Hawley regularly namechecks (Fred Neil, Lee Hazlewood, et al), and it rolls just like a big river, hemmed-in exquisitely by his own rich baritone. Among the other highlights, The Sea Calls, is as lovely as anything on the recently-rediscovered John Phillips album, and the somewhat understated Our Darkness bursts magnificently into a Walkeresque bridge that is as stunning as it is unexpected, and I only wish there were more of it on this recording. The closing track - The Sun Refused To Shine - is also a belter: one of those shimmery, lost-afternoon pieces that Hawley's immaculate guitar-playing frames so well.
All told, a fine piece of work. The only thing it really lacks is the immediacy of its predecessor: i.e. the songs themselves are not of such a complete standard as Coles Corner (a tough call, after all), but the album provides a perfect bridge between, say, Lowedges and Coles Corner.