Richard Hawley - Coles Corner
Some artists hit gold with their first albums with large record company marketing budgets to ensure they are household names within months. For other artists they quietly produce albums which are treasured by their fans but will never be sold in huge quantities in supermarkets. Sometimes, artists move from the latter to the former. Think of David Gray five years ago. And with Coles Corner, his third album, perhaps Richard Hawley will do the same.
Formerly in the band Longpigs and having had a stint as a guitarist in Pulp, Richard Hawley has produced an album, his third, of aching, emotional songs. The music, like the album's title, harks back to the fifties, a time of trams and trolley-buses, and of crooners and love songs. Coles Corner (no apostrophe) refers to the place in central Sheffield, next to the Cole Brothers department store, where friends and lovers have been meeting up for generations. The name has stuck even though the store was renamed as John Lewis several years ago. (John Lewis's corner just wouldn't be the same.)
The opening song, Coles Corner, sets the tone for the album - melancholic. There are lush strings and then Hawley's warm, baritone voice comes in. The songs build up towards the album's catchiest tune, Born Under a Bad Sign. At times there are country tinges to the songs, particularly (Wading Through) The Waters of my Time. After this song, the last two tracks change the mood from melancholy to downright sad. First there is Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet, an aching slow, sad lament. The final track is a sparse instrumental, Last Orders, which fades out the album over its four minutes' duration.
Perhaps Coles Corner is not for everyone, especially those with exclusively modern tastes, but those whose album collection includes the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, the Divine Comedy or David Gray, should try to find room for it. And don't listen to it as you get ready to go out on a Saturday night. Save it for when you are feeling blue and want to wallow in the feeling for a while.