Richard Hawley In This City They Call You Love Review:  Hawley continues to enchant on hymn to his hometown.

Richard Hawley delivers more Steel City romance and Memphis twang on tenth solo album In This City They Call You Love.

Richard Hawley

by James McNair |
Updated on

Richard Hawley

In This City They Call You Love



It’s a simple but seductive theory: the older the recording, the more magic locked within. Seemingly down with that notion, Richard Hawley has long repurposed the spirit of ’50s and ’60s balladry with style and great affection, his quiff, tailoring and fondness for the lonesome twang of a Gretsch guitar badges of nostalgic allegiance. Tapping influences from both sides of The Atlantic, and viewing the topography and humanity of his native Sheffield through the prism of yesteryear’s special sauce, Hawley hit peak wide-screen wistfulness on 2005’s Cole’s Corner. A true romantic then, but 2009’s Truelove’s Gutter, with its themes of loss and mourning, was sometimes black as the Kellingley colliery pit shaft; a sobering, if beautiful dose of social realism.

The question of just how long an artist should mine a particular seam is complex, but even although In This City The Call You Love again hymns Sheffield, is again in thrall to sounds of a certain revered vintage, Hawley continues to enchant. Prism In Jeans, which his wife Helen rightly thinks reminiscent of Jackie’s pastichable gem par excellence White Horses, also has a lovely air of Elvis movie deep-cut about it, while People, Hawley’s latest heartfelt nod to “This city of knives” and its steel production past motors gently. All soft kick-drum groove and spare acoustic guitar, its meditative air evokes the quiet dignity of industrious working-class lives.

By now, the lush textures, exquisitely recorded vocals and sussed artisan guitar tones are a cinch for Hawley. He knows how to set the controls for the heart of Sun Records, but there’s also a song here which journeys further, still. Deep Space, partly a critique of Elon Musk and Richard Branson’s profligate, £1-million-a-ride space trips, is a pleasingly raucous departure which sees Hawley utilise a Poltava fuzz-wah pedal, as jointly built by Ukrainians and Russians.

Elsewhere, country ballad Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow clearly owes something to Hawley and John Grant’s 2023 shows doing Patsy Cline songs, and Heavy Rain, too, a song for absent friends, is a small masterpiece of mood-setting, subtle cinematic strings colouring its Nashville skyline right on cue.

Parochial Hawley’s world often may be, but his themes are universal and timeless, and this is a vocation, you sense, not just a career. You might say he’s doing for Sheffield what Bruce Springsteen has done for New Jersey, blue-collar solidarity, largesse and enduring mantras are important to him. “Have love / Give love / Get love”, Hawley advises amid the hooky Tex-Mex groove of Have Love, while I’ll Never Get Over You offers succour to anyone whoever ached, its wounded Elvis sensibilities a signpost to Disgracelands, Hawley’s garden-shed home studio.

Track Listing:

Two For His Heels

Have Love

Prism In Jeans

Heavy Rain


Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow

Deep Space

Deep Waters

I’ll Never Get Over You

Do I Really Need To Know?

When The Lights Go Out

‘Tis Night

In This City They Call You Love is out now on BMG

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Rough Trade | HMV

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