After his foray into guitar-driven spacey-psychedelia for his last record, Richard Hawley goes back to his default setting of classic retro pop for this seventh studio album.
Where 2012’s Mercury-nominated Standing At The Sky’s Edge was all squalling guitars, the singer-songwriter returns to the wistful, nostalgic late 50s/early 60s sound which won him so many fans in the first place.
Hollow Meadows – its title referencing an area of Hawley’s Sheffield hometown, as has become his custom – is much more akin to his 2005 breakthrough album Coles Corner and successors Lady’s Bridge and True Love’s Gutter.
The gorgeous, lovelorn I Still Want You lays down the album’s template from the start.
Recorded in one take, it’s a throwback to the vintage sounds which your mam and dad probably listened to while courting if you’re of a certain age (ie over 40).
Hawley understands better than most the importance of space within a song, which is why you can hear every strum of the guitar, every beat on the drums and every plucked string on the bass on songs like the delicious Serenade Of Blue, with his vocals never intruding.
He’s joined by his long-time collaborators Shez Sheridan (guitar, pedal steel and so many other instruments it’s untrue), Colin Elliott (bass, and much else) and Dean Beresford (drums), and they have the knack of producing effortlessly soulful and enchanting music.
Picking a standout moment from the 11 tracks is difficult, as they’re all a delight, though Nothing Like A Friend and Heart Of Oak are my personal favourites.
This really is easy listening in the truest sense of the word. 8/10. GW