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In the Post #147: Richard Hawley previews eighth studio album ‘Hollow Meadows’ with ‘Which Way’

 
By on Thursday, 2nd July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

In the shadowy back alleys of Sheffield at night (and also at a pub called Fagan’s in town, depending on who you believe), there walks a man with a well-appointed quiff, spectacles and a knowing swagger all his own. This, my friends, is Richard Hawley, who like Jarvis Cocker is a beloved local singer/songwriter who’s done quite well for himself beyond the confines of South Yorkshire, a legend in his own right. I can hardly believe that after his time in the Longpigs and a stint with Cocker’s Pulp, he had already put out seven albums. Well, until we heard on Tuesday of this week that LP #8 was already in the can, ready to be unleashed on the public in September.

Three years on since the release of ‘Standing on the Sky’s Edge’, which garnered his second Mercury Prize nomination after being given the nod for 2005’s ‘Coles Corner’, Hawley is gearing up to release ‘Hollow Meadows’ on the 21st of September. On his last album, he went into a decidedly psychedelic, more in your face approach than in previous efforts, and I massively disliked the new material at the time, favouring instead the beautifully melancholic tones from the ‘Lady’s Bridge’ and ‘Truelove’s Gutter’ albums. ‘Which Way’ is the first preview we’ve been given to ‘Hollow Meadows’, incidentally named for the supposed “location of a hospital that existed as recently as the 1950s…(in a place) originally known as Auley Meadows – a name thought to derive from the Hawley family who lived there between the 14th and 17th Century”.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtI9ibk9gpU[/youtube]

You get a good feeling right from the start. To be clear, the guitars make their presence known. But except for the instrumental bridge with a guitar line that starts up like a chainsaw (not ideal), this new tune is led by Hawley’s rich voice, not by or to having to compete with the axes until the outro, where they’re used for an effective ending. There’s a pretty obvious contrast to previous ‘Standing…’ single ‘Down in the Woods’, which was all about how noisy and upfront the guitars could be than anything else.

Instead of psychedelia, the overall feel in ‘Which Way’ is a bluesy one, further supported by a soulful female backing singer and appropriately restrained drumming. Lyrically, the song treads blues ‘poor me’ fodder as well: Hawley sings, “back in time, it would be all right / I knew where I was going for once in my life / now that storm has felled all my dreams / now there’s a shadow hanging over me”, and you feel it in your bones. Considering this is much more than can be said about his Mancunian counterpart Morrissey‘s latest album ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’, odds are based on this taster track that Hawley’s on to something here in album #8. Can’t wait to hear it in full.

8/10

Richard Hawley’s eighth studio album, recorded in Sheffield in the spring of 2015, will be released on the 11th of September on Parlophone. For all past TGTF coverage on Richard Hawley, go here.

 

The 2013 BRIT Awards – The Nominees

 
By on Friday, 11th January 2013 at 4:37 pm
 

Is there any point to the BRITs? Granted, it gives a certain demographic of London teenager the opportunity to sting Daddy for the eye-watering £70 ticket price, no doubt getting stuffed with half-term pizza and fructose syrup before spending three hours squealing loudly at microscopic effigies of their latest tabloid-endorsed musical crushes. But beyond that, does any vestige of musical credibility remain within the unhallowed, chart-obsessed recesses of the BRIT Award psyche?

A swift perusal of the nominations, released yesterday, would indicate: maybe, actually. The usual mega-selling suspects are there: Emeli Sandé, Mumford and Sons, Robbie Williams, Olly Murs. But look a little deeper and could there just be enough respect for the breakthrough, even the underground, so that beyond the face paint and lasers, there’s a bedrock of credibility?

Step forward Richard Hawley, the most unlikely of the entire nomination list, proving that the BRITs aren’t immune to a decent bit of ‘70s-throwback guitar action and heart-on-the-sleeve balladry from a bequiffed Yorkshireman. Plan B also deserves a shout for his unflinching portrayal of council estate life in ‘Ill Manors’, which still deserves to make more of an impact than it has.

Jessie Ware gathers two nods, a fine result for her this early in her career, single-handedly making 2011’s Critic’s Choice Award for her namesake Jessie J look ever more ridiculous. The more listeners turned on to her coolly urban soul, the better. Paloma Faith is also up for two gongs – British Female Solo is fair enough, but British Album of the Year for ‘Fall to Grace’, for a collection significantly worse than her début, is deeply suspect. British Group unoriginally throws up two previous Mercury Prize winners: unlikely media darlings alt-J, and minimalist electro-songsters the xx; Muse are nominated for the ninth (and tenth) time, with Mumford and One Direction predictably making up the numbers. A rum collection, if ever there was one, and despite the disparate yet singular talents of each, hardly a state-of-the-nation statement.

The British Single category is too depressing to analyse deeply. Suffice to say a more turgid collection of middle-of-the-road dross it’s difficult to conceive. Any list containing the execrable ‘Mama Do the Hump’ by Rizzle Kicks deserves to be encased in concrete and dropped into a very deep hole. Thankfully each of the British Breakthrough nominees have something to commend them, though surely Jake Bugg is the most extraordinary of the lot; his compellingly grizzled, world-weary, yet uplifting take on vintage blues in his debut album means he should have no problem in lifting the spotted statue next month.

Ironically, there’s far less to complain about the International (read: American) nominees. Perhaps it’s because we expect the USA to do bigness well, it’s difficult to complain about someone like Bruce Springsteen being nominated, although one wonders just how much pride of place a BRIT award would take on the dashboard of his pickup truck.

As always, it’s good to see producers, the guys behind the desk who really make the music, getting their opportunity to shine, although it seems somewhat unfair that Damon Albarn should be sharing their limelight – hasn’t he had enough of it by now? If the Albarn effect can be resisted, Paul Epworth should walk away with this one, although personally I prefer listening to his sister’s output to his. And what of Amy Winehouse and The Rolling Stones, both nominated, neither deservedly? Stop it, BRITs! Pick people who are more alive!

The 2013 BRITs take place on Wednesday the 20th of February at London’s O2 Arena. TGTF will be reporting, either from the event itself, or from somewhere else in London more interesting. Watch this space.

Who should win the British Brits, I reckon?

Male Solo: Richard Hawley
Female Solo: Jessie Ware
Breakthrough: Jake Bugg
Group: One Direction
Single: Alex Clare – ‘Too Close’
Album: Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’
Live: Coldplay
Producer: Paul Epworth

Full list of nominees after the jump.
Continue reading The 2013 BRIT Awards – The Nominees

 

Richard Hawley / February 2013 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 7th November 2012 at 8:00 am
 

Sheffield legend Richard Hawley, whose latest album ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ was nominated for the 2012 Mercury Prize, has announced a UK tour for February 2013. Tickets are on sale now. Support will be from the Crookes.

Sunday 17th February 2013 – Buxton Opera House
Monday 18th February 2013 – Edinburgh Picturehouse
Wednesday 20th February 2013 – Bristol Colston Hall
Thursday 21st February 2013 – Leamington Spa Assembly Hall
Friday 22nd February 2013 – Cambridge Corn Exhange
Saturday 23rd February 2013 – London Troxy
Monday 25th February 2013 – Liverpool Philharmonic
Tuesday 26th February 2013 – Hull City Hall

 

Live Gig Video: Richard Hawley performs ‘Down in the Woods’ in Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studios

 
By on Thursday, 11th October 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

Richard Hawley just finished up a UK tour last week. John caught him and Lisa Hannigan in Lincoln on the 30th of September; you can read that review here. Richard also took the time to record and film this live version of ‘Down in the Woods’ in the legendary Yellow Arch Studios in his beloved Sheffield; the place is known as “Sheffield’s oldest Rehearsal and Recording establishment[,] now has cafe, shop, teaching plus equipment and venue hire” – blimey. Watch the mesmerising performance below.

 

Live Review: Richard Hawley with Lisa Hannigan at Lincoln Engine Shed – 30th September 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd October 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

You can tell when you enter a room how revered an artist is by the demeanour of their fans, for this gig it was obvious that the respect in the room was huge. Sunday the 30th of September saw 2012 Mercury Prize-nominated singer/songwriter Richard Hawley and Lisa Hannigan grace the Engine Shed and a beautiful gig ensued. The stage was kitted out with a plethora of floral arrangements. What for? Well, that was difficult to know. But it didn’t half look nice!

The setting was perfect for the ethereal acoustic driven melodies of support act Lisa Hannigan, who was playing her first gig in Lincoln. Hannigan opened her set in a typically understated way, with just her, the audience and an acoustic guitar during opener ‘Little Birds’. The song was a brilliant statement from Hannigan, as it showed off her fantastic voice and had the audience on her side immediately.

‘Passenger’ was an equally ethereal and beautiful track which showcased her astounding vocal range and showed everyone the talents of her full band. The softly-spoken Irish songstress wasn’t just there to leave everyone spellbound by her fantastic acoustic music. No, she was also ready for a casual rock-off, which during ‘Kind’ saw Hannigan don her rock shoes and stomp around.

To finish off her short set the three members of her band, Hannigan included, huddled around a microphone for the finale. It was a stirringly, soulful effort which had the entire audience encapsulated. Many of them may have just come for Hawley, but I can imagine many left with Hannigan fresh in their minds.

The atmosphere in the room changed as the lights dropped for the main attraction, Richard Hawley, who entered the stage and the crowd of 40-somethings proceeded to roar in approval. Their hero had arrived.

The set chugged into life with the title track of Hawley’s new album, ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’. As a slow-burning, heavy brute of a song, it had the entire crowd bobbing their heads to the massive beat. Hawley’s legendary status meant that once the epic of a song finished he could take a breather and generally just have a chat with the audience.

Now while he may only have been to Lincoln for the first time today, the crowd were obviously warming to him. His regular anecdotes in-between songs provided a witty commentary to an intimate gig. His crooning style of delivery made for a slightly one-toned gig; however, the sheer force and power of the music it was played to made up for it wholeheartedly.

Songs like ‘Remorse Code’ and ‘Soldier On’ were performed with a power the Engine Shed hadn’t seen for a while. Sure, the Subways may have ran a great 30-minute set the night before, but they can’t even compete with the level of epic Hawley was reaching for in this gig.

The gig finished with a well-earned encore where Hawley tore through renditions of ‘Lady Solitude’ and ‘The Ocean’. Let’s be honest, Hawley could have come on stage and rested on his laurels, but he instead Hawley rose to the occasion and delivered a set which made me realise how much he deserves his legendary status.

 

Mercury Prize 2012: Writers’ Early Predictions

 
By on Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 11:00 am
 

So it’s been about a week since the nominees for the 2012 Mercury Prize were announced. We here at TGTF have been mulling over the options, and here are our early thoughts on who will win this year’s gong.

Mary Chang, Editor (current location: Washington, DC, USA)
With the exception of Leeds band Roller Trio, all of the acts nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize are no stranger are known acts. A large proportion of the 12 nominees are those with high profile debut albums. The releases by alt-J, Ben Howard, Django Django, Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas, Michael Kiwanuka, the Roller Trio blokes and Sam Lee being considered this year all fall into that category.

Wait a minute, count those up again. That’s eight. You read that right. EIGHT. That’s means without even counting bookies’ odds, there’s a two out of three chance a debut album will be picked. Was this shortlist borne out of the fact that legend PJ Harvey‘s album ‘Let England Shake’ won the honour last year (and it was her second time winning), so the powers that be decided the list should be more heavily weighted to favour newcomers? The nominees should reflect the best of the best, and not because a band has suddenly leaped onto the scene on the strength of on media buzz. Let us not forget Speech Debelle’s win in 2009. Where is that follow-up album, eh, Debelle?

I’m not saying that there is no danger of having sentimental favourites nominated because there can be the thinking that although a band has been around forever and they never have won anything, let’s give them a go this time around, shall we? I am saying that given the importance and weight of a Mercury Prize nomination, let alone actually winning the prize, the winner shouldn’t be the band that has the largest promotional effort. Which, let’s face it, tends to happen with the Next Big Thing band, because thanks to the cynicism of labels, bands are pushed hardest when they are signed and put out their first releases. When the list was released last Wednesday, I groaned inwardly because there is one band on this list whose lead singer’s voice I cannot stand, but I expect to hear him and his band constantly on BBC Radio in the next 2 months without fail, all thanks to their Mercury nomination…

So my vote is for Field Music‘s ‘Plumb’. This is pop, but not in the way you used to view pop. It’s interesting and intricate, with piano and guitar lines that sound like no-one else’s. And more importantly, what they come up with is entirely unexpected. Brothers David and Peter Brewis trade off on lead vocal and drumming duties, adding two additional variables into the mix. They’ve made it okay not just to like but embrace the art rock genre, with its atypical time signatures, flying directly in the face of that urban pop piffle that’s become all too commonplace on radio. And this album has the word “smart” written all over it. Seriously, when was the last time you heard transitional bits in an album that were purposely made into tracks, and they worked? Should they win, I’m expecting naysayers to complain that they’ve been around too long and ‘Plumb’ isn’t as fresh as some of the debut albums that were nominated. Just because something’s new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good, or the best. ‘Plumb’ is an intelligently written, intelligently made album that deserves this praise.

John Fernandez (current location: Lincoln, UK)
The question on most people’s lips: “where’s the crazy curveball they normally throw at you?” I, for once, found myself knowing all the acts nominated, something almost unheard of over the last few years! When looking at the list the name that jumps out is an obvious one: alt-J have been gathering plaudits far and wide and feel almost as certain to win as the xx did in 2010. You really would be a fool to bet against them, but I never said I was anything but a fool.

My money is going slap bang on Plan B, an artist who over a short career has reinvented himself so successfully. ‘The Ballad of Strickland Banks’ introduced a character and backed him up with some of the most soulful tunes of the past decade, thoroughly thrusting Ben Drew into the mainstream. Now his new album ‘Ill Manors’ is out and he is firmly back to his roots, rapping about financial hardship on council estates and the plight of “Broken Britain”. Plan B says he wants to have the same impact by winning this that Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy in Da Corner’ did, and why not? He’s the outspoken voice of his generation.

alt-J are cool and have some killer tunes, but Plan B is representing the underrepresented and should win the Mercury Prize.

Luke Morton (current location: London, UK)
alt-J must be the favourites to win the Mercury Prize this year, and for good reason. Since their inception in 2011 with the ‘?’ EP, the Cambridge four-piece have been spreading their melancholy, indie pop across Britain to the delight of the mainstream music press including BBC Music and NME.

Debut LP ‘An Awesome Wave’ is a supreme example of the evolution of indie in the UK in recent years, as it flirts with ideas of folk, electronica, art rock and straight-up pop music. It’s been accused of being too pretentious but it’s in fact a perfectly-crafted, 44-minute odyssey into experimental playfulness that has produced the enchanting singles ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tessellate’. There’s a reason the internet exploded at the release of this album, and hopefully it will receive the recognition it deserves.

Martin Sharman (current location: Gateshead, UK)
This year, the Mercury judges have the opportunity to comment on not just music, but society itself. For they have nominated Ill Manors, Plan B‘s uncompromising soundtrack to his eponymous feature film, a collection of grim stories set on a London council estate. This is the real deal: Ben Drew has the requisite first-hand knowledge to make a story of council estate debauchery and violence spring to life, and is reinforced here by collaborators of impeccable credentials. Never before has there been such a vivid piece of work documenting council estate life, and the moral- and morale-crushing struggle for survival which such an environment engenders.

Plan B pulls no punches; there are stories about drugs, violence, prostitution, drugs, gangs, and more drugs, leavened with heavy doses of swearing. No doubt there will be some who dismiss this as nothing more than a tabloid-style “demonisation” of the working class, exaggerating and exploiting their woes for cynical financial gain. Which is nonsense. Everything here has the ring of truth about it: Drew grew up on the eponymous estate; John Cooper Clarke is on board, and he, of anyone, knows his subject; take a wander through the syringes and discarded aluminium spoons of any run-down corner of London’s concrete chaos and then reasses those opinions. This is a more important piece of work than any dry government report on “Broken Britain” – its task is to seep into the consciousness of those lucky enough to have grown up on a manor not quite so ill, and make them aware of what’s going on, often just a mile or two down the road. In comparison, every other nominee appears twee and enfeebled – pretty music, but nothing with the relevance and gravitas of this collection. Richard Hawley fares particularly badly when listened side-by-side, smothering any relevance of intent with several decades’ worth of electric guitar. Ill Manors is the sound of today – however ugly the truth might be. Let’s hope the judges can find the bravery to reward fact over artifice.

The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on Thursday, the 1st of November. For an overview of all the nominees, read this post.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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