'Further' is the sound of a man who remains at the top of his game after 20 years as a solo artist. The King of Sheffield has his crown intact. Long live the King!
Sheffield’s Richard Hawley is not only the King of Sheffield (anyone want to argue with that?), he is also the King of Consistency. That might sound like damning with faint praise but it’s not; it’s the greatest of compliments in a world of regular musical mediocrity.
Hawley manages to put out albums of the highest quality on a regular basis. There is never an inch of filler to be seen and that is no mean feat to pull off. His continued production of high quality music, underpinned by his uniquely urban troubadour style, cements him an artist who has been at the top of his game for getting on for 20 years as a solo artist. On eighth album ‘Further’, he continues to be at the summit. It’s now out BMG.
He might have dropped the Sheffield-referencing album titles for this one, but his work is now so associated with the Steel City that there is almost a Pavlovian reaction when you hear it anyway. There is a beautiful relationship between Hawley and his home-town and its people. The recent musical ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ at the Crucible Theatre, a stunning demonstration of this greatest of love affairs.
The album title reflects Hawley’s desire to capture the intention of moving forwards, but without jettisoning his past. You can certainly see that all over the album. Optimism lies at the heart of ‘Further’, an album that was made largely in Sheffield with Hawley and his crack band, aided by co-producers Colin Elliot and Shez Sheridan.
“I really wanted to challenge myself to try to keep things relatively up-tempo and keep the songs to about three minutes long,” Hawley says openly, “I was asking myself ‘Can you get your message across like a bullet? Can you still do that?’ It’s quite a tough question to ask.”
‘Further’ is certainly more forthright than his previous releases, clocking in at under 40 minutes. The opening track and first single, the thunderous, Rickenbacker thrasher ‘Off My Mind’, sets the album’s direct tone. I thought for a moment he had rejoined the Longpigs.
Hawley describes his approach on the track as “playing like tomorrow may never happen.” Other songs that display similar swagger include the Glam stomp of ‘Alone’, the outlaw tale that is ‘Galley Girl’ and the album’s centrepiece, the grungey ‘Is There A Pill?’.
It would not be a Richard Hawley album without some gorgeous ballads with luscious string arrangements and there is plenty of that to satisfy the senses. Hawley has such an amazing gift for writing songs that wrap their arms around you and make you feel safe and warm. Listen to the beautiful, yet simple ‘Emilina’, the yearning ‘Midnight Train’ and album closer, Doors.
‘My Little Treasures’ – a tune that Hawley has taken 12 years to record – is based on the deep personal experience of encountering two of his father’s oldest friends following the latter’s death in 2007, and the complexities of emotions associated with that time.
“We’re all bombarded by so much hateful stuff at the moment that I was determined to make something that is really loving. Some of the songs definitely reflect that and deal with what’s going on,” says Hawley. “The song Not Lonely is a good example. It deals with the stage that I hope our children get to, that stage where they can have a place of their own, being able to find their own space and luxuriate in it.”
The King of Sheffield has his crown intact. Long live the King!
WATCH THE VISUAL TO THE FIRST SINGLE, OFF MY MIND:
Further track listing:
- Off My Mind
- My Little Treasures
- Is There A Pill
- Galley Girl
- Not Lonely
- Time Is
- Midnight Train