Truelove's Gutter CD
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As well as being universally critically acclaimed and having a Mercury Prize nomination to his name, Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley received praise from hugely influential acts including Coldplay , Radiohead and REM. On Truelove's Gutter, his sixth solo album, Hawley experiments with unusual instrumentation, with the album featuring a waterphone, megabass and cristal baschet, amongst others. These unusual sounds add even more depth to what is already Hawley's darkest album.
Much like Nick Lowe, Sheffield-based crooner Richard Hawley has forged a career by mining rich seams of Americana, while somehow still making music with a strong sense of place – in his case, a northern English one. With 2007’s Lady’s Bridge having finally got him a modicum of the recognition he deserves, this sixth effort is something of an event. Truelove’s Gutter is also the closest he’s come to a ‘concept album’, or song cycle; and it’s a classic flawed masterpiece.
The lush but uncluttered arrangements feature some grandiose string sections and various obscure or archaic instruments such as ‘megabass waterphone’ and ‘crystal baschet’. It’s this, and the fact that the songs are longer and more down-tempo than before (and less immediately memorable), that may initially raise alarms. Has Mr Hawley run out of tunes and retreated into sonic artifice? Not a bit of it. Repeated plays reveal some truly sumptuous treasures.
It’s obvious the artist has put a lot of thought into the running order, kicking off with the artificial bird calls, sleepy ambience and gloomy, rain-flecked imagery of As the Dawn Breaks. The sequence from the hushed ennui of Ashes on the Fire through to Don’t Get Hung Up on Your Soul, with its haunting musical saw accompaniment, is as close to perfection as anything he’s done. Between them lies the album’s heart-beat and emotional linchpin, the brooding meditation of Remorse Code. Instantly unforgettable, it unfurls with breathtaking grace and surprising economy over nearly ten minutes, and has a lovely, understated guitar solo.
His strengths and weakness as a lyricist are laid bare by the sparse, moody atmospheres. While the warts-and-all romantic realism of For Your Lover, Give Some Time has laugh-out-loud lines and Ashes From the Fire makes clichés seem convincing, both Open Up Your Door and Soldier On are repetitious, the latter marred by a bombastic interlude that breaks the prevailing mood.
Aside from this, it’s the sheer beauty and unity of feel that make this a more than worthy addition to the Hawley discography. Truelove’s Gutter takes risks but doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. --Jon Lusk
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Top customer reviews
The voice, the intonation, the sheer clarity are just amazing.
The music reminds me of the kind of soft gentle songs of the old rat pack. Well sung, clear and bright with backgrounds to stir the soul as the guitar plucks the heart strings.
Deep driving rhythms, slow carefully picked notes interleaved with enough spaces to park an ocean liner of emotion. I don't know which is my favourite track so far, they are all just so wonderful.
This CD has been played constantly since it arrived last week, it's just so completely fantastic. Now I need to save up for the earlier music.
I could go on forever about how much this music has lured me, loved me and rewarded me. 'Nuff Said. Buy it.
This album is not a lavish and opulent as Coles Corner or as glitzy and brash as Lady's Bridge .Trueloves Gutters is more reflective and pared back , the songs more ruminative and sparse, though that's not to say it isn't without those moments of fulsome beauty that followers of Hawley will know and love. "Open Up Your Door " for instance features the Red Skies string section who for this gorgeous songs last third burst effulgently from the speakers like a cloud of iridescent feathers.
Only a true master of the song writing art could take a song as ( on the surface ) simple as "Remorse Code " which centres on a deceptively straightforward guitar refrain and over nearly ten minutes weave a beguiling and tender enchantment without the listener losing interest. Similarly "Soldier On " for half of it's nigh on seven minute just features lonely lap steel , muted percussion and Richards vocals until (for this album ) discordant guitars and keening strings rupture the bereft arrangement.
Aficionados of exotic instrumentation will be in heaven with this album. Opening track "As The Dawn Breaks " features the celestial wailing of the glass harmonica." Ashes In The Fire " uses Celeste and tremolo mandolas while the fragile diaphanous "Don't Get Hung Up On Your Soul " has Alpine concert zither and musical Saw. Not that all this instrumental exotica is a cover for dull songs. The wonderful plea for universal appreciation of those closest to us "For Your Lover Give Some Time " may feature fisherman's lyre but mostly is a truly lovely affecting song. Best of all is the epic closing track "Don't, You Cry " .I cannot differentiate the water phone or indeed the Tibetan singing bowls in the mix but the song is a glorious almost hymnal comfort blanket. The final coda is absolutely spine tingling .
I am tempted to lament the fact that while myriad turgid bland singer songwriters garner excessive radio exposure and clog up the charts a careworn genius like Richard Hawley is largely ignored. But it probably doesn't bother him too much and really we should just be grateful that music this special , this marvellously moving, exists at all. A deeply personal work I feel , Trueloves Gutter is the best thing Richard Hawley has ever done . A minor miracle. This gutter runs feely with the benefit of love , life and the compassionate flow of human experience.
I am, of course, joking. If you have heard "Coles Corner", "Lady's Bridge", or any of his earlier solo albums, then you will be fairly familiar with Hawley's style and will know pretty much what to expect from "Truelove's Gutter". However, what you possibly won't have been expecting is just how brilliant his new piece of work is. It is a further collection of beautiful, gentle, romantic songs in his timeless style. Like a contemporary Nat King Cole (only better), Richard Hawley has delivered an exceptional collection of emotionally-engaging, truly beautiful ballads which may, just, be the best of his career so far. This album is also a little more understated than his last, a tad more subtle - and it works all the better because of it.
At eight songs long, you may be forgiven for thinking that this could be a short album, but with three songs at over six minutes long, this still feels like a whole, complete long-player. Besides, if you're anything like me, you prefer quality over quantity and "Truelove's Gutter" has quality in abundance. The opening song, "As The Dawn Breaks" is an exquisite introduction to the album, tender and delicate. "Open Up The Door" is simply an amazing track, gorgeously romantic and impeccably augmented by the sweeping, swelling Red Skies string section. "Ashes On The Fire", a tale of heartbreak in a slow waltz time, is both beautiful and sad at the same time. "Remorse Code", with its very punny title, starts like gently acoustic version of Lennon's "Imagine" but, at just under ten minutes in length, develops into a beguiling extended instrumental with some genuinely wonderful guitar work.
"Don't Get Hung Up In Your Soul" is simple but effective, with Hawley's rich, expressive voice pulling quite a few emotional strings over an understated acoustic guitar, saw and zither. I really do appreciate that the more unusual instruments haven't been allowed to take over the song. Often artists and groups will make too much of a highlight of an instrument if it is perceived as unconventional, but Richard hasn't been caught in that particular trap. Perhaps the highlight of the album - and it really does have to be a very special track to stand out in this distinguished crowd - is "Soldier On". It starts and builds gently, showcasing a subtle guitar solo, but when it thrillingly explodes, resplendent with rippling cymbals, bold drumkit, throbbing electric guitar and heavenly strings... well, it truly is something quite magnificent. The penultimate song, "For Your Lover Give Some Time", is a real tear-jerker - sincere, emotional and absolutely beautiful. The album finishes on "Don't You Cry" (it could easily be an instruction for those trying to get through the previous song without welling up!) which is a ten minute piece of sheer loveliness.
This is an exceptional and flawless album. It is, arguably, the best of Richard Hawley's exemplary career and I can't recommend it highly enough.
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