Any expert on modern-day Marlboro-bothering crooners (or even, as one suspects is more likely around these parts, The Longpigs) is likely to tell you that Richard Hawley has created some of the most soothing, hope-drenched and plain heart-shatteringly beautiful songs of this century. Not only because of how they brim with the overwhelming essence of love and devotion, you understand, but also because they are helped in no small part by a timbre-defying but utterly wonderful rumble of a voice. You know, the sort of songs that are sung in dilapidated ballrooms under soft spotlights and carried slowly and solemnly through the dust and the dark to a place where they can calmly stroke your soul and tell you that Everything’s Going To Be Okay. Which makes it even more infuriating that his latest single offering ‘Just Like The Rain’ seems so naggingly, well, average. That’s not average by general standards – this is still a fair enough tune, a toe-tapping homeward-bound ditty of eager spirit and swooping string sections, and still has the ability to defrost the iciest of demeanours. But considering that Hawley has the potential to leave listeners practically spellbound in a pool of their own wistful, quivering ectoplasm, even during other moments on the LP Cole’s Corner, then it’s hard not to feel a little frustrated by it.
All the better, then, that there are other tracks here. If pop historians do their job properly, then ‘Room With A View’ will be described as Vintage Hawley in 2038. It is quite unbelievably gorgeous, a swoonsome lament utilising the trembling atmospherics last seen used by muckers Pulp for ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’, only with skimmed drumming and dreamy guitar work. Oh, and that voice. The cover of ‘Long Black Veil’, meanwhile, spins a yarn with chilling murderous activity yet rattles along chirpily to the low thunder of Hawley’s cautionary tone. In other words, it sounds so much like Johnny Cash that you suspect he’d be an even better Man In Black than Joaquin Phoenix – although obviously our Dickie would need to start getting used to contact lenses. The moral of the tale: buy this for the B-sides.
7Thomas Blatchford's Score