Richard Hawley – ‘Hollow Meadows’

South Yorkshire's smoothest man returns with an album of classic songmanship and fireside melodies

Arctic Monkeys’ main man Alex Turner might have spent the past few years dipping deep into his tub of Black & White hair pomade and lobbying hard for the position of official Sheffield Elvis, but it’s a role that was filled a long time ago. The smoothest man in South Yorkshire has always been Richard Hawley. He’s a crooner in the vintage sense, from his honeyed vocals to his horn-rimmed specs. ‘Hollow Meadows’ is his eighth album. Named after a village in the nearby Peak District – and also managing to sound unnerving like the next twisted Tim Burton film fairytale – the 11-track collection of lugubrious love songs shows Hawley returning to his smooth ice-cream ad soundtracking roots.

Gone are the jagged riffs and heavy soul of 2012’s ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ and in its place is classic songmanship and mellow fireside melodies. The 48-year-old denim-clad dandy proves he can still rock out on the thundering garage gospel of ‘Which Way’ and drivetime chug of ‘Heart Of Oak’ but once that’s out of the way, he seems far happier to plump the sonic cushions and cosy down into a feather bed of delicious doo-wop and sensual swing. Simple, but in no way sparse, instrumentation drives the languid ‘Sometimes I Feel’, with close harmony backing vocals lilting away like they’ve been lifted from a lost Leonard Cohen ballad. Like a timid Syd Barrett, Hawley skitters around the fringes of psychedelia on the warbling ‘Welcome The Sun’. A dark and lengthy folk ballad on which his voice comes over even deeper than usual, it’s the sort of moody territory normally trampled over by Nick Cave, yet in the hands of Hawley manages to take on a soft tenderness.

There’s a foray into Fairport Convention territory too, with ‘What Love Means’ harbouring a Renaissance style harpsichord, which nestles comfortably alongside the crooner’s heartfelt vocals. ‘Long Time Down’ picks up the pace, simultaneously channeling the Beach Boys and Roy Orbison, with Hawley’s wry humour peeping through the retro beachside boogie, as he coos, deadpan: “We worked out of the slaughterhouse/On the outskirts of town”. Setting the standard for seduction, once again.