on 8 January 2007
The 2006 Mercury Music prize went to The Arctic Monkeys. On accepting the award, their spokesman said "someone call the police, Richard Hawley has been robbed". Now bearing in mind that Hawley is a fellow inhabitant of Sheffield ... forgive my ignorance people of Sheffield, but I haven't a clue what they call you... even so I made a mental note. Months before, Verity Sharp had interviewed Hawley on The Culture Show, and I liked what I heard,...well that's not entirely true... I just love Verity Sharp...and she loves Richard Hawley.
So I bought the album.
The morning it dropped on my doormat, I fired up the system, placed it in the CD tray, pressed play and sat back.
The world changed...into Technicolour. The strings that swelled from the speakers could have come from a big old Wurlitzer jukebox from the Fifties. I could have been sitting in an old boozer sipping brown ale in the days before lager was invented. It was uncanny. Hawley's influences are obvious, to my mind he is almost disturbingly like Roy Orbison, especially on track 3, Hotel Room which is achingly beautiful. Born Under a Bad Sign has echoes of Morrissey in his more vulnerable moments. The influences may be obvious, but Hawley's songs are sincere and intensely personal, this is no mere pastiche.
From the semi acoustic guitar, vintage brush drums, lush bass...nothing hurried...everything unfolding at it's own natural pace. We are on a nostalgia trip where strings swell and lap steel guitars swoon their love to a cold world. But strongest of all are Hawleys tentative gentle vocals, crooning, as if to a lover cuddled up close. Lush. Heartbreaking. Fabulous.
on 16 September 2005
Richard Hawley -a favorite of Nancy Sinatra and Ryan Adams- may just have earned a place in the lineage of singers and songwriters who have a legitimate gift for genuine romanticism, in a tradition wide enough to include Bacharach, Scott Walker, Dion and Roy Orbison.
I know that's quite a strong statement to make, yet Hawley belongs there by his capacity to evoke a certain nostalgia and joy of true romance that is authentic and exquisitely crafted, without ever indulging in trite sentimentality.
Whether you are already familiar with Hawley or not, Coles Corner, his most accomplished album thus far, is a perfect place to take delight on this man's work. Hawley has a distinct voice tone and sense of phrasing that can conjure up the many moods of love that many of us have felt, and that those people mentioned before have so memorably expressed.
I would add that the fact that these songs are written by him may clearly contribute to the confidence and credibility of his delivery. Whether is the longing in his voice in "Coles Corner" or "Wait For Me," which reminded me of Orbison, or the romantic pleas of "The Ocean" or "Born Under A Bad Sign"- he hits the mark.
Another remarkable fact is that Hawley is not even a singer first, his guitar work -a fixture in Pulp's sound in recent years- is what he's been originally recognized for, and in this album he confirm that too. This is one of those rare cases of virtuosity without showing off, confessional without self-consciousness, gorgeous chords and subtle solos weaving seamless stories between words and melodies.
Coles Corner, it's conveyed in the liner notes, was a place where everyone in Sheffield met -specially those looking for romance- and although, many of us were never there, it would feel like a familiar place. Whatever "your corner" was called, or my memory takes me, this music could probably be how those places sounded when we looked for love.
on 24 August 2006
I bought this album somewhat belatedly after hearing 'hotel room' on the Wogan show - it was just so nice to discover a new song with melody and evoking lyrics (and the slide guitar sounds lovely too). Did'nt really know what to expect from the rest of the album but its just really lovely - mellow and nostalgic - a little downbeat perhaps but its perfect when you are just kicking back and contemplating life and its ebbs and flows - this guy really wears his influences on his sleeve - early and late Elvis, Roy Orbison, Dean Martin (Elvis' favorite singer!) and in particular that late 50's sound when country/blues was just becoming rock and roll. He has one of those voices that reminds you of many other artists (even Morrissey in places) and you can actually hear the lyrics - bloody miracle nowadays! (yes I'm 42!). This album contains songs that set scenes rather than bash you about the head - recommended.
on 13 August 2006
I bought this CD after hearing the title song in the background of an interview with Richard and Steve Davis on the BBC World Snooker Championship last year,it is a hauntingly beautiful collection of songs that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.Its Roy Orbison,Burt Bacharach with a slice of Santo & Johnny thrown in. Buy it you won't be dissapointed.A+
on 3 June 2007
I must admit right now. 3 days ago, Richard Hawley could've been Richard Johnson from Surrey for all I knew.
There is nothing, and I mean, nothing, better than discovering a new artist, then wondering where they've been all your life!!!
To say I love this album is an understatement. Richard has the smoothest Edwyn Collins-esque voice I've ever heard...apart from Edwyn of course!!
Yes, I love this album, and the track 'Just Like the Rain' is probably the perfect song for this kind of genre. A Cohen-esqhe strum leads into a Marty Robbins chorus which is magnificent.
Think El Paso done by The Divine Comedy, and you're probably nowhere close.
I'd give it five, but the album drags a bit towards the end. Pity, as Richard is Sooooooooooooooo much more talented than messrs Blunt, Bedingfield, Powter, etc etc. Miles Better.
on 15 August 2005
Forget the whinging of James Blunt, Richard Hawley is the real deal. I have only heard 4 tracks from this so far but it is definitely worth buying for these alone. This should be THE album of the autumn without a doubt. Lush ballads and soft strings add a perfect compliment to a voice that is strangely reminiscent of both Scott Walker and...Morrissey (there is a bit of a link there in the past that unfortunately never came to fruition). If this is your first contact with Richard Hawley it will definitely not be your last as his back catalogue is well worth investigating too.
on 13 August 2007
I saw in VH1 the video for "The Ocean". It left me astonished. What a marvelous song! But, unfortunately, I didn't keep the name of the (for me) absolutely unknown Mr. Hawley. A few months later I saw the video for "Just like the rain", another incredible song, and this time I ran for pencil and paper to write down the name of the genius (no other name fits here) that could make songs like those whitout me knowing, and bought the record. And what a record! The perfect one to listening to while outside it's raining, with a good cup of coffee in my hands, remembering old friends, times gone by... stuff like that. Mr. Hawley's voice, deep, baritonal, and so true that hurts in some of the tracks is a wonderful discovery. His guitar, the one of an old troubadour, conjures voices from the past with an almost magical effortlessness.
This is an album for old-fashion romance. In a musical world like we have today, full of teenagers with no style, no voice, and no idea of what good singing is about, this wonderful CD stands on it's own. Listen to Hotel room, and then try to figure out a singer that could sing it as Mr. Hawley does. There's none, today. I can't recommend Coles Corner enough. And I finish here, I have to order the rest of Richard Hawley's records right now.
How Richard Hawley is not a household name like James Blunt, David Gray, Damien Rice etc all is quite beyond me. His music is so beautifully crafted and delivered that you inevitably want to play the whole album through again.
To sum up what this album is all about is simple: Quality love songs delivered with a crooners lilt and a fantastic backing band. Live his music comes to life, but this album represents his best effort so far in bringing himself to the attention of a wider audience.
If there's any justice in this world, he will find sales of this record far exceed his own expectations.
on 8 February 2006
This album was recommended to me by a friend who's big on Pulp and The Divine Comedy, and knowing that I'm also big on Pulp and The Divine Comedy, they thought that I might like it. And I do, though Hawley's music has a much more lethargic quality to it than the two bands aforementioned, capturing the sense of rainy day reflection and drifting nostalgia, with a sound that strives to capture the more low-key essence of melancholy, backed by a tinge of 50's Americana. It sounds divine, with Hawley's rugged croon drifting in over a country-style rhythm section and a twang of Nashville guitars, creating something of a middle-ground between the early Scott Walker's particular blend of cinematic melancholy, and the desolate emotional landscapes of Johnny Cash.
Some might argue that the album is too monotonous or "samey" (sic), with Hawley sticking to the same blend of romantic love ballads shot through with the warm sepia-tinted hue of nostalgia (and just the right amount of drifting orchestration) throughout the entirety of the album... but regardless, the style works for me, capturing that lovesick feeling that dwells late in the evening, with Hawley creating the perfect soundtrack to a wet weekend spent tucked away at some seaside holiday resort with a lover who doesn't love you as much as you'd initially thought!! Either way, the combination of sweeping arrangements, smooth vocals and evocative/emotional lyrics are sure to appeal to the kind of people who find themselves reaching for their copies of Scott IV and A Short Album About Love whenever there's the slightest hint of trouble on the relationship front... whilst further similarities to legends like the abovementioned man in black (with his husky voice, charismatic delivery and stripped-down approach) and the king of heartache himself Roy Orbison (with the lonesome characters, moments of reflection and the search for hope) are apt, to say the least.
With the album sequenced the way it is the songs drift in and out of one another in a way that some will no doubt find infuriating, but for me, it captured a mood (and at least several of the songs - in particular the storming Born Under a Bad Sign, the wistful Hotel Room, the somber I Sleep Alone and the epic genius of The Ocean - all stood out as future classics that more than stand up to repeated listening!!). The rest of the songs are fine... often taking their time to work their way under the skin and into the subconscious, with the slick and quite often gorgeous musical arrangements, coupled with Hawley's warm but weary vocals, managing to capture a mood and a feeling that is continued throughout.
Hawley's music is all at once both intimate and expansive, as his lyrics tap into the idea of personal reflection, whilst simultaneously speaking of real life people and places, moments and events, that anyone who's ever walked the streets alone at night (too heartbroken to sleep) will easily understand. Cole's Corner is exceptional stuff, sounding like the album that people have been wanting Scott Walker to make since the early 70's, whilst simultaneously managing to present a more grown-up (and dare I say, less odious??) take on the role of the singer/songwriter, currently being paraded by the likes of James Blunt, Daniel Powter and Katie Malua. The songs here are equally radio friendly, yet seem to come from a place that's real... not some marketing man's idea of how to appeal to mums teenage girls. Cole's Corner offers up a low-key suite of songs that capture the spirit of lost love and nostalgia perfectly, whilst simultaneously introducing us to a songwriter capable of harvesting retro influences, and somehow making them sound new.
Much as I love Lady`s Bridge, which was this album`s follow-up, marginally Coles Corner still stands as Richard Hawley`s finest hour.
This admirable man is fast becoming a national treasure (something that would no doubt make him wince) and it`s pop-rock masterpieces like this that have contributed to the genuine love in which RH is held.
Nobody else is doing quite what he does here and on his handful of other albums. There is now a surfeit of hermetic, over-praised `Americana` releases, many very good efforts - one thinks of The Handsome Family, who share a superficial musical approach with RH - but, quite honestly, this man does it better than most of them, yet he`s as English as they come.
Cole`s Corner is a beautifully packaged, lush and lovely collection of eleven songs which I play sparingly enough for them never to pall. It`s been said so often that it`s become a cliche, but it isn`t hard to hear Hawley`s inspirations and influences in these songs and in his mellow, `pre-Beatles` voice. The spectre of the great Roy Orbison is often raised, but his voice is closer to someone like Ricky Nelson or Bobby Vee, only lower and with a semi-lisping tremulousness all its own. The early Scott Walker comes to mind too...
This is one of those albums with no highlights, as the songs are all superb, and the album as a whole is the gorgeous sum of its considerable parts.
I love Richard Hawley and I hope he keeps on doing pretty much what he`s been doing so far this century. Nobody does it better.