Saturday, 7 November 2015

Richard Hawley

Glasgow Barrowlands

5th November 2015

For much of the Noughties (hate that word) Richard Hawley lurked and skulked on the aural limits of my musical horizon.  Whenever I heard any of his stuff, I would invariably think “That is really good…and yet, somehow maddeningly familiar”.  For with those clutch of albums from Coles Corner through to Truelove’s Gutter, the Sheffield man hit upon a writing style which appeared to effortlessly meld various blues, C&W and even easy listening styles, whilst simultaneously bringing a certain something unique all his own to the party. 

Some of the songs perhaps skirted around the edges of parody, it could be argued – I am thinking of the likes of Wading Through the Waters of my Time and Dark Road here – but these Richard sang with such a twinkle in his eye, one could forgive him most things.

My attention was jolted violently in his direction with the release in 2012 of the doom-laden guitar-fest Standing at the Sky’s Edge album - one of those collections which simply demands to be experienced all the way through in one sitting.  Although my personal faves were the opening and closing tracks, within the collection lay all manner of adventures, even if lyrically Mr H chose to visit some rather dark places.  With only the opening verse to Take It bringing anything in the way of light relief.

Hawley’s’ latest release, Hollow Meadows, however certainly appears to represent a return to the more sedate side of his song writing.   Heart of Oak, with its references to Wilfred Owen, William Blake and folk singer Norma Waterson is, (the other being Which Way), one of only two rockers on the set.

The opener I Still Want You is a delight, whilst The World Looks Down and Long Time Down are both examples of those instantly likeable Hawley songs which just sound intriguingly familiar.  The jewel in the crown, as it were however is, I feel, the hauntingly beautiful Nothing Like a Friend – possibly the only song I think I have ever encountered with the word “gossamer” in the lyric.  Although I think the prize for the best line goes to Sometime I Feel:

“Sometimes if you wanna know which way your train is going,
all you've gotta do is dare to catch it”

And although we were presented with a fair selection from Hollow Meadows, there was no doubt that the Sky’s Edge cast a long shadow over proceedings, for it was songs from the latter collection which shone brightest this evening.  The brooding menace of the title track was palpable, with Leave Your Body Behind You providing the set with first decibel uplift.

Even Time Will Bring You Winter (a bit of a filler on the album, I feel) came alive, acting as a tension builder to the crashing release provided by Down In The Woods.   I was ridiculously delighted to hear Richard embellish the spoken word interlude of the latter with a few lines from one of my much-loved poems: John Masefield’s Sea Fever.

There was a smattering of oldies from those earlier “Easy Listening” days:  Coles Corner and Open Up Your Door – the last named receiving a sincere, but perhaps also slightly mischievous, lengthy ovation from the appreciative Glasgow crowd.  At one point whilst waiting patiently for the acclaim to die down, Hawley shared a glance with guitarist Shez Sheridan, who shrugged back as if to say “It’s your own fault”.

Generally speaking I seriously attempt to avoid “Everything Was Great” reviews, and endeavour to bring a modicum of criticism (not that I am remotely qualified to do so) to my scribbles, but I have to say this evening was as close to as perfect a gig as I have attended from some time.  The sound was crystal clear, the audience suitably demonstrative, and Richard clearly loved being up on stage playing his tunes, and did not care who knew it.  Robert Fripp should perhaps take note.

If really pushed, I would drag out the assertion that The Ocean is already such a perfectly perfect song; it really does not the need the short feedback blowout tagged onto the climax.

But I truly am barrel-scraping.   

Richard Hawley - Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom - Nov 2015
Photo courtesy of Barney Rubble.

Richard Hawley - Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom - Nov 2015
Photo courtesy of Barney Rubble.

Richard Hawley - Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom - Nov 2015
Photo courtesy of Barney Rubble.


Which Way
Tonight The Streets Are Ours
Standing At The Sky’s Edge
I Still Want You
Leave Your Body Behind You
Sometimes I Feel
Open Up Your Door
Tuesday pm
Time Will Bring You Winter
Down In The Woods
Don’t Stare At The Sun
Heart Of Oak

Coles Corner
The Ocean

1 comment:

  1. It was a really good gig - enjoyed this write up.
    Good pictures :)