RICHARD HAWLEY: FURTHER
CD / DL / vinyl
A new album from Richard Hawley and four stars in the music press and broadsheets. Two reasons to get excited as Sheffield’s finest hits fifty.
His last album, Hollow Meadows might have suffered from following the ‘difficult to follow’ excitement of Standing At The Sky’s Edge; in turn following Coles Corner and Truelove’s Gutter was a job and a half. After indulging in a good helping of Further for a couple of weeks or so, the conclusion is that it’s going to be heralded a class piece of work.
For once, it’s a record not named after a Sheffield locale in his bid to get further away from the expected and in his search for the perfect pop song. Richard Hawley’s gone short and to the point relying on a brutal economy. Not quite in two-minute punk frugality, but a focus on shorter and sharper blasts yet retaining the distinctive Hawley trademarks of lush arrangements and understated but sublime guitar embellishments. Brothers in arms, Shez Sheridan, Colin Elliot and Dean Beresford also help keep things familiar along with a significant presence of the Up North Session Orchestra.
However, the early taster that came in the form of Off My Mind proved a fervent blast of rock and roll with the sort of chunky riff that Steve Jones would be proud to present to the Pistols. Don’t be afraid though as Hawley lovers will find him once again channelling a soothing amalgam of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Elvis, while on Alone he morphs (briefly) into Morrissey with its “do you know exactly how I feel?” opening line.
The sense of underlying romanticism that attracts a demographic of a certain age to the Hawley catalogue had him declaring: “I was determined to make something that is really loving. Some of the songs definitely reflect that and deal with what’s going on.” Proof in the pudding lies with the title track rolls in easy waves ahead of the exquisite Emilina Says while Not Lonely has him musing about “loneliness is not the same as being on your own.” The big string-drenched drama of Is There A Pill sees a belter of a guitar solo finally breaking through yet the rumbling rhythm of Time Is. at 4.01 “the prog song” where he’s allowed himself mischievously to break the four-minute barrier, includes a stinging harmonica break from Clive Mellor who’s been accompanying Richard on several of his acoustic solo outings. “Time will change” he warns in a cautionary tale that reeks of the fatherly advice, “as you are now, I once was, as I am now, you will be.”
There’s also a nod to his predilection for being influenced by some of his folk music peers (and neighbours) having formed musical friendships with the likes of Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr and the Carthy crew with his Galley Girl; a folk-influenced rollin’ home tale with lyrics that foretell of villainy and love, possibly he’s been reading Alfred Noyes, with a rock solid backing.
However, as much as he may want to head somewhere, Further is an enriching musical experience that radiates the same warmth that emanates from the idyllic (probably Yorkshire) sunset of its cover.
Watch the video for Off My Mind from the album here: