If there was one album I kept on coming back to this year, it was Richard Hawley’s exquisite late night masterpiece, Truelove’s Gutter.
Sheffield’s son of sadness made his darkest and most experimental work to date – Truelove’s Gutter was by no means an instant record – in fact it was quite difficult to deal with at first.You had to work at it, get to know it and explore it, but it was well worth the effort.
Forsaking Hawley’s usual rockabilly stylings for lengthy instrumental passages, guitar solos and strange sounds (including a glass harmonica and musical saw), this was a moody, cinematic album with a sad, haunted, world-weary feel.
Opener As The Dawn Breaks set the scene perfectly – creeping up on the listener like the first rays of sunshine on a frosty winter morning. Hawley sings of ‘roofslates, hope hung on every washing line and a songbird’s melody’ – pure poetry.
The spiralling Remorse Code dealt with cocaine addiction, Soldier On sounded like Roy Orbison fronting Spiritualized (when the wall of guitars and strings kicks in at 2:45 is simply one of my favourite musical moments of 2009) and Don’t Get Hung Up In Your Soul was shadowy, melancholy country with an eerie undercurrent, thanks to a zither and David Coulter’s saw playing.
On a lighter note, the beautiful Open Up Your Door was a big orchestral pop ballad and first single,For Your Lover Give Some Time sounded like a standard from the ’50s or ’60s. Man, it could have been sung by Matt Monro or Sinatra.
Over a simple, sparse arrangement of just acoustic guitar, cello and violin, Hawley crooned this gorgeous, yet pithy, love song that he wrote especially
for his wife, Helen.
When he promises to drink a little less, give up cigarettes and come home early every now and then, it makes me weak at the knees.
In a press statement issued at the time, Hawley said: “I use a load of odd sounds on this album that are not heard on many other records.
“The sounds in my head on a lot of the tracks – I didn’t even know what they were called! I wanted it to be a listening experience from start to finish, where you couldn’t just pause it and go off and watch Coronation Street or
whatever. Sonically, it flows. It’s not jumping all over the place. It just has a mood that goes through the whole thing.”
It certainly does.