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Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge

10/14/2012

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Often the bridesmaid but never the bride, Richard Hawley has been around for donkey’s years writing and singing songs of understated brilliance. “Someone call 999 – Richard Hawley’s been robbed” fellow Sheffielder Alex Turner famously acknowledged as the Arctic Monkeys pipped Hawley to the 2007 Mercury prize.

The 2012 Mercury nominated Standing at the Sky’s Edge is Hawley’s seventh album and, like its predecessors, draws inspiration from a Sheffield location. Sky Edge, high above the railway station, provides a wonderful view of the city centre but struggles with crime and poverty. This sets the tone for a record which combines beauty and fragility with lyrics about vandalised buses. It marks a change in direction for Hawley from the careworn, 1950s style elegance of much of his earlier work to a crashing guitar-driven sound that is often dark and brooding (Hawley describes it as his “angry record”) and occasionally psychedelic.

Yet beneath the layers of guitars this remains, unmistakably, a trademark Richard Hawley record. Don’t Stare at the Sun is classic Hawley; a lovely understated ballad about taking your kids to fly a kite. And Down in the Woods speaks of “stolen love under a canopy of trees”. This is a stunningly beautiful album that will hopefully see Hawley get the recognition his music richly deserves.

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