After he released Lady’s Bridge, it seemed that the British crooner Richard Hawley could do no wrong with me. As the release drew near for Truelove’s Gutter, I wasn’t quite sure what I expected from this new record. Would it be similar to his previous work, or would he branch out into a new direction, much as his friend Jarvis Cocker has done?
Well, as the odd soundscape opening of “As the Dawn Breaks” began, I will say that anxiety crept into my throat. Sure, this dabbling in sonic structuralism was indeed a new direction, but from a man who has blanketed his albums with lush orchestration, it seemed a step too far off. Still, as the song progressed, the music almost loses its focus, bring Hawley’s throaty baritone to the forefront. Perhaps this is where the album would go?
When “Open Up Your Door” came on, you could hear the instrumentation that so often backs Richard, although it seemed to be in the distance here, that is until the slow drum work came into the picture. It’s at this point that I found Hawley completely stepping into the role of a modern-day Leonard Cohen. You hang on every syllable, on every gentle note; and eventually, it all breaks into the dense orchestral movement you would expect.
It seems fitting to me that this record was already causing me to waiver on my decision to love this album or not. Richard Hawley is not a taste for everyone, though surely everyone can find beauty in his voice, which sounds as guttural as anything you’re likely to find out there. Perhaps the way the instruments traipse about, barely catching your attention until the song requires them to do so, seems striking to most. Almost unimportant. But, how can such songs evoke so much emotional toll on a listener? It made Cohen great. It made, for some, Waits a classic. Surely Richard Hawley will find his place, though his lyrics are that of the forlorn lover.
And so it went, to the point where I arrived at “Remorse Code,” the second longest song on Truelove’s Gutter. How does a nine minute long ballad capture you, wrap you around its finger, and throw you upon its back until the end. Listening to the subtle guitar work, I found no answer, only that I adored this song absolutely, as I adore the man singing the words. I didn’t have to go far, one song past, to find “Soldier On.” There’s some biblical allusions here, or at least some references to Christianity, though not in the overt sense. Hawley seemingly walks through this album, pacing himself, creating tension for the listener. It’s as if we’re merely meandering through this tune, until you reach just past the four minute mark where the song crashes into you. It releases you in a wash of cymbals and emotions.
By backing it all into the finer moment that is “For Your Lover Give Some Time.” I don’t particularly want to go into the detail of this song, as I’m sure, as with most Hawley tunes, each person will get out of it what they will. It’s such a personal song, for me as a listener, that I don’t dare ruin your impression of it, or what it may offer you.
Thus the album walks into the longest song, the perfect ending to Truelove’s Gutter. The epic failure that could be this album’s bookend is not there. Although it may be long, it encapsulates everything you wanted from the end. Your time with Richard Hawley has come to an end, and though you want it to last forever, you needn’t fret, as you can simply relive it time and time again by pressing repeat. I know I will.
Download: Richard Hawley – For Your Lover Give Some Time [MP3]