Richard Hawley - Lady's Bridge

I still get the impression that Hawley would be more comfortable in a Working Men's Club than a rock and roll venue, and that's no bad thing. 

The first thing you hear is that voice. "Hold Me," it says, as a guitar strums quietly behind it. "In your arms may they keep me," it continues and your heart melts immediately. If you're a fan of any of Hawley's other solo work, you'll be sold on this album already. That's right, only one line into the first song and instantly you're reassured that you're entering that timeless, lushly orchestrated world of Richard Hawley. To be honest, you'll probably be sold on the cover alone. There's Mr Hawley, resplendent in his two Elvis look (Costello's hair and glasses, Presley's wardrobe), lounging in a comfortable leather armchair, his guitar resting next to him. He looks comfortable, relaxed, as if waiting for someone to bring him a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. Which is nice. One glance at the cover alone and you'll know that it's good to have him back.


Lady's Bridge, like its predecessor Coles Corner, takes you back to a time and place you probably don't recognize. There's an old fashioned charm to Hawley's music that plays testament to a lifetime of listening to old crooners and old country. People will probably point to Johnny Cash and Scott Walker as reference points, but Hawley seems to encapsulate more than that. His music seems to evoke the idea of a glorious musical past, without ever sounding out of date or irrelevant. That's thanks to the strength of his songwriting and the clarity and beauty of his voice. Having said that, I still get the impression that Hawley would be more comfortable in a Working Men's Club than a rock and roll venue, and that's no bad thing.


The thing I love about Hawley, more than anything, is that there's no sense of ego in his music. Although there are other artists out there trading on a sense of old school charm and charisma (Michael Buble, Jamie Cullum, Harry Connick Jr etc), I get the sense that, although those guys are pretty good at what they do, their talent is their charm, if you know what I mean? Perhaps it's a tad unfair to compare them. After all, Buble and the like spend a lot of their time interpreting old classics, so there's a distance between them and the songs in any case, but I never really get the feeling that they truly inhabit the songs they sing. Buble singing Moondance is great, for instance, but he's no Van Morrison when it comes to adding soul to the song. The same goes for the other guys. The great thing about Hawley is that you get that old school charm but you never get the feeling that Hawley is singing because he wants to be a star. He's got a kind of everyman quality to him. Of course, the fact that he is singing his own songs makes that comparison even flimsier, but I think you get what I'm trying to say. Don't you? Ok here's the thing. Hawley's more than just a voice.


With Hawley, he's not just singing love songs, you get the distinct impression that he's singing a song to his loved ones and that's what sets him apart. He inhabits his songs, he lives them and it's an absolute joy to spend time in his company. His music is so intimate and his voice so whispered and hushed that it immediately relaxes you. The arrangements may be lush and bombastic at times, but they never feel overblown.


This is an extremely comforting album. How comforting? Picture this, if you will. It's winter outside. A cold, harsh winter. The window is covered in frost patterns and the world outside is covered in deep, flaky white snow. Inside, the room basks in the glow of a warm open fire. You stare out through the window as the snow continues to fall and you snuggle up on the couch with your loved one and a nice cup of tea. With biscuits, of course. There, feeling comfortable yet?


Lady's Bridge is an impeccable piece of work. If you've any love in you, I suggest you give it a chance.


Words : Damian Leslie