Personnel: Richard Hawley (vocals, various instruments); Simon Stafford (piano); Colin Elliott (keyboards, bass, background vocals); Andy Cook (drums); Shez (background vocals).
Recorded at Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield, England.
Before Richard Hawley's self-titled solo debut mini-album, and the later release of his breakthrough album Late Night Final, he was known primarily, if at all, as the guitar player from the Longpigs, or as the touring guitarist for friend and longtime collaborator Jarvis Cocker's Brit-pop hero act Pulp. What nobody but his insider friends could have known, was that in addition to his stellar skills at the guitar, Hawley possessed wonderful crooning vocal chords and considerable songwriting chops. The seven songs on his 2001 debut are every bit as accomplished as the influences they portray. Hawley's artsy slices of noir come across like Scott Walker jamming with Roy Orbison and Nick Drake. His rich voice could come from any era, and indeed, if not for a copyright date, it would hard to pinpoint when the album was released. Hawley's subtle take on chamber pop makes for seven instant classics. But unlike much of Scott Walker's catalog, or that of Walker fanatics like Neil Hannon, Eric Matthews, and Cousteau, there isn't an ounce of cheesiness. Hawley's guitar floats above hushed drums, like Chris Isaak playing in an isolation chamber, as fractured, chiming percussion out of an Angelo Badalamenti film score makes for a dreamy backdrop. Tinged with country and jazz overtones, the music is hard to pin down to one genre, and pairing this fact with Hawley's gorgeous baritone voice makes for a consistently intriguing listen. Hawley would continue to mine this fantastic realm of his own creation, releasing similarly perfect mood explorations, and developing a cult audience in the process. With each new album, Hawley's audience would grow; those who missed this debut shouldn't neglect seeking out its treasures. It's hard to imagine a more superb solo debut. ~ Tim DiGravina