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Cole's Corner Import
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|1. Coles Corner|
|2. Just Like The Rain|
|3. Hotel Room|
|4. Wait For Me|
|5. The Ocean|
|6. Born Under A Bad Sign|
|7. I Sleep Alone|
|9. Wading Through The Water|
|10. Who's Going To Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet|
|11. Last Orders|
Coles Corner, the follow up to previous albums on Setanta, Late Night Final (2001) and Lowedges (2003), was recorded at Yellowarch Studio in Sheffield, singer/songwriter Hawley's hometown and is a beautiful album, filled with nostalgia, emotion and romance. The album's orchestral splendour sits alongside earthy rock and roll with songs that are by turns intimate and soaring. Richard Hawley insists his mind is full only with 'confused thoughts and Guinness'. But when he sings, he does so in a voice that's deep and low, and does not lie. His merciful, wise songs tell of the heart's truths as seen in the dark, revealed by moonlight. Thom Yorke (Radiohead) says... 'Richard Hawley is all I'm listening to at the moment' and Scott Walker says... 'Richards voice is up there with the all time greats'...Mute. 2005.
Richard Hawley spent the 90s primarily as a guitarist with Pulp and Longpigs, and contributing in-studio for the likes of Beth Orton and Robbie Williams. The 21st century, however, has seen Hawley make his way as a stellar solo artist. A loose tone poem/ode about a specific, well-traveled locale in his native Sheffield, Coles Corner is dense with songs that manage to be both weighty in tone, yet airy in execution. Sung in a thrilling baritone that falls somewhere between Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash, his lyrics scrutinize that ghostly intersection of places and people, and how little pieces of ourselves we leave behind accumulate to form a kind of psychic footprint. The record bleeds with heart-on-the-sleeve sincerity that has nothing at all to do with indie music's recurring fondness for bitter irony. "The Ocean" is a prime example, filled with slow, sweeping motifs and unabashed grace. Hawley doesn't forget his guitar, breaking in with thick, messy riffs on songs like "Born Under a Bad Side" and slide atmospherics on "I Sleep Alone" and "Hotel Room." It's a satisfying piece of work, and while it cements Hawley's reputation as a skilled songwriter and musician it also exposes him as a world-class hopeless romantic. Matthew Cooke
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I know that's quite a strong statement to make, yet Hawley belongs there by his capacity to evoke a certain nostalgia and joy of true romance that is authentic and exquisitely crafted, without ever indulging in trite sentimentality.
Whether you are already familiar with Hawley or not, Coles Corner, his most accomplished album thus far, is a perfect place to take delight on this man's work. Hawley has a distinct voice tone and sense of phrasing that can conjure up the many moods of love that many of us have felt, and that those people mentioned before have so memorably expressed.
I would add that the fact that these songs are written by him may clearly contribute to the confidence and credibility of his delivery. Whether it is the longing in his voice in "Coles Corner" or "Wait For Me," which reminded me of Orbison, or the romantic pleas of "The Ocean" or "Born Under A Bad Sign," he hits the mark.
Another remarkable fact is that Hawley is not even a singer first, his guitar work -a fixture in Pulp's sound in recent years- is what he's been originally recognized for, and in this album he confirm that too. This is one of those rare cases of virtuosity without showing off, confessional without self-consciousness, gorgeous chords and subtle solos weaving seamless stories between words and melodies.
Coles Corner, it's conveyed in the liner notes, was a place where everyone in Sheffield met -specially those looking for romance- and although, many of us were never there, it would feel like a familiar place. Whatever "your corner" was called, or my memory takes me, this music could probably be how those places sounded when we looked for love.
I would say the vocal and songwriting analogy would be closer to Nick Lowe's latest work, rather than Cohen or Cash. Cash had more of an edge to his tone; Cohen doesn't have Hawley's sense of pitch, though he has a whole lot of lyrics. This is more Spartan, like Nick's "Dig My Mood," though melodically it also closes in at times on Orbison, and there is an echo of Roy in the phrasing. I might offer the caveat that the lyrics are not the kind of wordplay that makes Nick Lowe a genius, nor the vocal passion that trademarks Roy Orbison, but Nick and Roy belongs to a different pantheon entirely. What Hawley is doing here is turning cliches around and upside down, perfectly respectable in my book, and singing them with the kind of integrity that honors the emotions behind the otherwise stock imagery.
I grow weary of cricics who have never played music, never taken a music course, critics whose sole credential is that they passed Freshman English with a B, damning great records like this one just to see their own prose in print. If you like classic popular song forms, delivered with grace, skill, dignity and a sincerity that cannot be faked, then this is for you. I, for one, would love to shake the hand of the man who could make a record like this in these times of abject vapidity.
And as if that weren't enough (and it would be better than 99.9% of all the other music out there if it ended there) it comes wrapped up in one of the most beautiful and distinctive singing voices of our time. Like everyone says, Richard Hawley's voice conjurs the ghosts of Orbison and Scott Walker, but it's entirely his own and so damn expressive it can take your breath away.
Each song is its own little gem. But there are stand-outs: the title song and "The Ocean" are two of the greatest songs of the last 10 years. At least.
Please buy this album. Your life will be much the richer for it.