Sheffield’s Richard Hawley is now in his twentieth year as a solo artist, and not one to re-tread old ground, his eighth album marks a turning point, as not only is this is the first album which doesn’t feature a Sheffield landmark but it’s one of his most full on rock records to date, finding a unique balance between the softer, string led croons and the gutsy punch of the heavier wailing guitar led tunes.

Opening track ‘Off My Mind’ is an absolute stomper of a tune which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mark Lanegan album with Hawley’s earthy vocals over fuzzed up guitars, and is the most raucous and brilliant tune he’s done in years. ‘Alone’ continues the tone with its rhythmic guitar riffs and strings sweeping along and is epic in its scope, whereas ‘My Little Treasures’ finds Hawley in a more reflective mood, musing on “cold beer in warm places, whiskey glass storm chasers” over a shuffling beat, acoustic guitars and gentle sweeping strings. Elsewhere on the album there’s songs reminiscent of long lost folk ballads (‘Emilina Says’), grandiose uplifting string and guitar led tunes reminiscent of ‘A Design For Life’ era Manics (‘Is There A Pill?’)

‘Not Lonely’ has a delicate softness to it, with Hawley singing “time is not your own, well it is behind these doors, because loneliness is not the same as being on your own” over a gentle acoustic guitar backing, whereas ‘Time Is’ has a menacing undercurrent if guitar twangs, harmonica wails and Hawley’s deep rich vocals over the top which building up into a chorus with uplifting backing vocals and an absolutely epic wall of melodies.

Every song on here is distinctively Hawley, from the louder rocking guitar tunes to the slower, more delicate ballads, he’s always been a songwriter who embodies a folk spirit in his lyrics yet this time it’s matched with a sound which feels fuller, and more substantial. Not that previous albums have lacked anything, they were encased in a more delicate framework, but this one feels like the shackles are off, allowing his musical ideas to thrive. Hawley is one of the UK’s best songwriters, with a distinctive sound which sounds like it has lived a life, yet rages with the determination to keep focused on the future. His best album to date.

Richard Hawley – Further: Out Now (BMG)

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.