Richard Hawley - Standing On The Sky's Edge
- By Nik Jeffries -
- May 02, 2012
Richard Hawley is one of this country's finest musical talents; a bold but, dare I say, accurate assertion. Without ego he’s kept his head down and written some of the most emotionally rich songs of the last 10 years. Always out of step with perceived zeitgeists or trends, he’s proved himself to be the baritone bard of sweet sounding loneliness, like a South Yorkshire Roy Orbison. He’s come a long way since his days in Britpop band The Longpigs (‘She Said’ anyone?) and despite the Mercury Award debacle where Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys declared that his winning meant “Richard Hawley was robbed” he hasn’t let his growing profile affect his modesty.
Having achieved something of an artistic zenith with 2005’s ‘Coles Corner’ Hawley repeated the winning formula on ‘Lady’s Bridge’ to somewhat dampened results. 2009’s ‘Lady’s Bridge’ was a stark, rich and insular album which channeled the timeless sensibilities of Lee Hazlewood and Scott Walker. New album ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ comes metaphorically speaking straight from the left field. In fact it practically sent shivers down my spine to read on the press release that the album was a fusion of “psychedelia, space rock and ragas with heavy riffs and raw, visceral guitar solos”. Quite unlike the Richard Hawley we all know and love surely? Truth is that’s a hyperbolic statement but the album is a clear reaction against the orchestration of his previous records, and specifically the insular redemption of ‘Lady’s Bridge’.
Opener ‘She Brings The Sunlight’ is a fitting call to arms. Perhaps Hawley’s role as touring guitarist in the recently reacquainted Pulp has rubbed off on him as it’s a cascade of Indian style strings and sun-drenched guitars not terribly dissimilar to Pulp’s ‘Sunrise’. ‘Time Will Bring You Water’ starts with a dark, brooding synth before being drowned out by dramatic guitars dripped in delay whilst ‘Down in the Woods’ is a tight rock juggernaut.
‘Seek It’ is the nearest to the doleful and tender Richard Hawley of old and consequently feels out of place nestled neatly in the middle of the album. Lyrically it comes across a little stunted when he sings ‘I had a dream and you were in it, we got naked, can’t remember what happened next, it was weird’. ‘The Wood Colliers Grave’ is a melancholic mood piece supported by lightly brushed drums and threads of eerily echoing guitars. The bubble quickly burst by the emphatic dynamic of ‘Leave Your Behind You’.
‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ is certainly not business as usual for Richard Hawley, compared to his previous work it’s far less lyrically focused. However this isn’t the intention as the album is not resolved on telling a forlorn, solopsistic narrative but rather aims to paint emotions with striking brush strokes. It’s plaintive songwriting writ large in technicolour.
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