Richard Hawley - Truelove’s Gutter
Welcome to Richard Hawley’s world, where all songs must be gently crooned ballads, guitars go twang, and Scott Walker is the only post-1950s artist of any interest. Truelove’s Gutter is Hawley’s fifth long player, and if you didn’t like his stately, old-fashioned ballads before now, chances are this album won’t change your mind. But if you’re besmirched by his old-world charm and admirably unchanging style, well, another treat is in store.
This being a Richard Hawley record, there’s no great departure from his beloved sweeping ballads, but those familiar with the back catalogue will identify this as the slowest, most elegiac set he’s yet recorded. The uptempo rockabilly of his last album, Lady’s Bridge, takes a back seat, as elegant, smoky slow-burners completely dominate. As ever, the standard of songwriting is high. Remorse Code unfurls beautifully over almost 10 gently hypnotic minutes. Dealing with his druggy past, the sense of regret is palpable. Don’t Get Hung Up On Your Soul is Hawley at his most restrained, accompanied only by bowed saw and a barely strummed guitar – it’s exceptionally pretty. The highpoint is the languid For Your Lover Give Some Time, with Hawley effortlessly capturing the minutiae of domestic life. With three songs stretching beyond six minutes, Richard Hawley isn’t in a rush to go anywhere, and nor should he be.
Indeed, once again, there’s barely a false move over the course of the album. It’s not hard to see why Arctic Monkeys are enamoured with him, because the songcraft is really quite gorgeous. But lovely as Truelove’s Gutter is, the sense of an artist repeating himself nags at the back of the head. Richard Hawley has made this niche his own, and is utterly comfortable within it. It’s surely too late for him to change now: “I once tried to write some indie songs, but they all sounded rubbish”, he once replied when asked if all his songs have to be ‘big old ballads’. When the quality is this high, though, you’d be hard pushed to argue. Romantic, beautifully crafted and classy, if Truelove’s Gutter can’t quite surpass his high-watermark (that’s Cole’s Corner), then it certainly continues a fine run