Richard Hawley’s music, ‘til now, seems always to have borne the stamp of an alternative crooner; an indie Nat King Cole, even. Listening to his songs has been like being wrapped up in a warm blanket while a storm rages outside the window; he’s possessed of a richness of voice and a surfeit of songwriting ability, talents he’s hitherto combined to produce music with a classic, old world feel ripe for Hovis bread adverts and a forgotten Northern England. So it comes as something of a surprise to drop the needle on his seventh record and be greeted with ‘She Brings The Sunlight’, a sprawling, seven-and-a-half-minute rock epic, part driving drone-rock, part Soulsavers-esque soaring majesty, awash with fiery solos and pervaded with a vaguely hypnotic heaviness.

Hawley’s intelligent lyricism is here too – the title track itself has the feel of a cowboy song, but tells a tale of gritty city misery. But as the album wears on, the shock fades, the excitement dissipates, and the crooner returns for three or four over-long, slightly ponderous songs; songs where smothering self-indulgence seems to get the better of the man. Which is a shame, because for the first half of this record, he’d turned up the volume, plugged in the pedals, and found himself a nicely jagged edge; Hawley had brought the storm inside. Sadly, he soon opened the door and let it out again

By Chris Watkeys

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