Like many, I got into Richard Hawley around the time of Coles Corner. Like many, I am amazed that this man does not shift records by the bucket-load as, to my mind, he is one of the top five singer-songwriters these isles have ever produced. Perhaps it's because (let's face it!) he's no spring chicken, or because his style of playing appears too retro, that he doesn't appeal to that section of the public who should be buying his records in droves: I refer to under-25's, who do not yet plainly comprehend that this is the greatest chill-out artist ever.
Since falling head-over-heels in love with Coles Corner I have systematically worked my way backwards through the whole catalogue, and never been disappointed. Here we have another of those great artists, like The Smiths, like The Beatles, like The Jam in their heyday, who makes great albums, great singles, and great b-sides. This extended edition of Hawley's first mini-album presents us with those seven tracks plus five former b-sides, but it is no less a classic, or complete entity, for that. In fact, two of those tracks - Sick Pay and Troublesome Waters - rank among his finest, as does the opener - Coming Home - and the gorgeous Naked In Pitsmoor. Elsewhere, there are two instrumentals, reminiscent of Joe Meek - Caravan and Cheap Spanish Wine - which ooze class and daring like no-one else I can think of. Happy Families I find reminds me of David McWilliams' work with Mike Leander in the sixties, but there are great touches and influences everywhere. The only glitch (see if you can spot it) is one lyrical refrain repeated in two seperate songs, as if that matters. This is nascent genius at work, so we'll allow the odd oversight. If you are not yet familiar with the man and his work, buy Coles Corner or Lady's Bridge. You will end up buying the whole back catalogue, and you'll never look back.