Monday, September 10, 2007

Richard Hawley, Lady's Bridge

A review

Mid-August 2007. My holiday. Sitting at a cafe' bar in the pretty lakeside town of Iseo, in Northern Italy.

Were it not for the appalling dress-sense displayed by a couple of German tourists, the bloke sporting the infamous hiking sandals/white socks combo and his missus the baggiest most masculine t-shirt that's ever graced the earth, you'd conclude it's a pretty unremarkable early afternoon.

On the radio, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive is followed by a previously unheard tune. I look at my girlfriend. "I like this one", I utter, the melody, the arrangements and the texture feeling just right and thirty seconds is all it takes for me to want to find out more…The 1950s romance aura rings incredibly familiar. Then the singer's voice, warm and melancholic, comes in. It's Richard Hawley and that's his new single Tonight the Streets Are Ours.

Dedicated in memory of his father, a former steelworker from Sheffield and the real influence behind Hawley's fondness for 1950s' rock'n'roll and rockabilly, Lady's Bridge is no doubt as addictive as his previous work.

Compared to the critically acclaimed Coles Corner, the music may have lost a touch in intensity, but it's certainly picked up kudos in maturity and grace. It's quite possibe that in the heart of many fans Hawley's filled the gap left by Morrissey when the former Smiths singer packed his bags for Land of Egomania and decided that giant spangly MORRISSEY neon letters sculpted on stage would do.

Richard Hawley's distinctive retro style is well-suited to the ongoing themes of introspection, absence and loss. The sleeve is so carefully studied and the imagery alone suggestive enough to leave you daydreaming for a couple of hours. To me, that’s what a timeless record is about.

The title track is just sublime, musically and lyrically, as it takes the cue from The Ocean off Coles Corner, but with a less claustrophobic effect, "Take me with you when you go I'm tired of living life on hold"- he sings, while the frail and tormented Dark Road has the charm of a Johnny Cash ode: "One day from the darkness I'll come rapping at your door and I'll never walk this road anymore".

With Serious and I'm Looking For Someone To Find Me things go up one notch. The double bass, doo wop vocals and steel guitars are evocative of a lost world where ballrooms and dancehalls were punctuated by puffa skirts swirling round in pirouettes.

"Macho Music is Stupid", Hawley is keen to let the world know on the CD sleeve. That alone makes it money well spent.

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