Richard Hawley Lady's Bridge

Sheffield-based crooner Richard Hawley is slowly earning the attention he’s deserved since he set out as a solo artist after working with acts like Pulp, Beth Orton, Robbie Williams and his own ’90s band Longpigs. His Mercury Prize nomination for 2005’s Coles Corner certainly helped boost his profile and with his fifth album, Lady’s Bridge, Hawley justifies his place as one of Britain’s premier songwriters. With his velvet baritone and striking guitar lines, Hawley still evokes an age where Roy Orbison and the Walker Brothers — both of whom are clear influences — topped the charts. As we’ve come to expect, Lady’s Bridge has a personal focus (the bridge in question is a landmark in his hometown) and his lyrics remain as woeful and romantic as always. For the most part, it doesn’t feel like much of a departure from his previous four albums. Every song is so intricately arranged, with lush strings and iridescent instrumentation showering his smooth-as-silk vocals, that you just sit back and take it in like his others. The grandiose pop of "Tonight The Streets Are Ours” is arguably his finest single yet, and the delicate piano/strings combo on "Roll River Roll” kindles the cosy warmth that only Hawley can currently bestow. That said, he’s admitted to have lately "discovered tempo,” which sums up "Serious,” a suave stab at skiffle that suits his magnetic personality. Subsequently, he tries his hand at rockabilly, another slow-coming pursuit of his, with "I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me,” suggesting that maybe one day he’ll indulge in his Sun Records obsession. Another breathtaking effort that’s worthy of that Mercury Prize come next September. (Mute)