If this was a fair world, which the continued existence of Akon suggests otherwise, Richard Hawley would be huge. A veteran of the Sheffield indie scene, although in all fairness his band Longpigs were never in danger of setting the world alight. Through the years Hawley has been a member of Pulp in their latter years, an in demand session guitarist and most recently has been feted by everyone from R.E.M. to the Arctic Monkeys who, when beating Hawley to the Mercury, famously declared; “Someone call 999, Richard Hawley’s been robbed!”. Over the course of eight years and six albums, which in itself is a phenomenal rate of work, Richard Hawley has become an accepted piece of the furniture of
The question is whether this new album, Truelove’s Gutter, will actually widen his appeal or simply appeal to those who are already converted. Rather sadly it’s most likely that this album will go ignored by many. The reality is that all the things that have come to be regarded as intrinsic parts of Hawley’s persona – particularly his penchant for 1950’s rock and roll and rockabilly styling’s – don’t exactly scream hip young thing and will most likely alienate many. However this is a great shame as Truelove’s Gutter is a bewitching album that shows just how strong a writer and performer Richard Hawley is.
First and foremost what is sure to grab every listener is the potency of Hawley’s vocals. His voice is an amazing honeyed baritone that is equal parts Buddy Holly and Elvis croon, with a distinctive Sheffield tang to his voice. Right from the album opener ‘As The Dawn Breaks’ it draws you in, gentle and restrained, trembling ever so slightly like Roy Orbison. Throughout the album the vocal, yearning and pleading breathes life into Hawley’s lyrics, which are all gentle midnight meditations upon loss and dark periods. A particular stand out is ‘Remorse Code’, which suggests the misery of a drug comedown with a gentleness and poeic turn of phrase that could easily be at home in an Irvine Welsh novella.
What also stands out about ‘Remorse Code’ is the brilliance of Hawley’s arrangement. Lush yet never cluttered, strings sit nicely next to a beautiful reverse echo guitar figure to create a sonic landscape that perfectly matches the mood evoked by the keening melodies he sings across the whole album.
Truelove’s Gutter may not reach millions, but it showcases brilliantly how amazing an artist Richard Hawley is.