Richard Hawley – Standing At the Sky’s Edge
Around the time he released ‘Coles Corner’, Richard Hawley made a bunch of acoustic versions of older songs free to download from his website. Beautiful versions of ‘I’m On Nights’, ‘The Nights Are Cold, ‘It’s Over Love’. Seven years on, times have changed. His previous release, ‘Truelove’s Gutter’, was a more ambitious affair. Grander. Fuller. Longer. Satisfying. Building on these developments, Standing At the Sky’s Edge pushes the boundaries further still. The photos on the digital booklet give it away. Close-up pictures of guitars, phaser pedals, and distortion knobs turned up to 9.5. This is the psychedelic Richard Hawley. Does it work? Not really. That distinctive voice finally emerges from the noise on track 5. Up to that time, it’s been drowned in a sea of reverb and just plain sound. And the lyrics? The bitter-sweet, everyman-yet-transcendant Richard Hawley lyrics? Who knows? At times they’re almost indecipherable. But all is not lost. Songs like ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun’ start off slowly, build up and then take-off. It’s an old trope, but it sounds good. ‘The Wood Colliers Grave’ is the best song on the album. It’s also the shortest. It’s a simple song, but here the psychedelic Richard Hawley fills it with a mystery that it wouldn’t have had as a straightforward ballad. Restless, Richard Hawley is probably his own harshest critic. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why he always wants to move on. And that’s good. The next album will probably be quieter. Calmer. The free downloads disappeared from Richard Hawley’s website pretty soon after he became an international treasure. It’s a shame. It’s good to move on, but it’s good to have a reminder of the past too.