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Richard Hawley has always occupied a position within my musical blind spot, never pulling alongside and fully attracting my attention.  With new album “Standing at the Sky’s Edge” however, Hawley has not only found a new gear, he’s replaced the engine, thrown away the silencer sporting a louder, throatier model which craves the attention.  The deeply smooth, velvety tones still proliferate, although the first three tracks in particular, find the Sheffield songwriter adopting a steelier determination with swirling psychedelia at the sonic forefront.  “She Brings the Light” begins quietly, Eastern influences apparent, before crashing guitar chords abundantly highlight Hawley’s change in direction, embellished later in the track by two searing guitar solos.  The title track continues in similar epic vein, whilst emphasising his lyrical adroitness, short narratives exploring the darker thresholds of life accompanied by distorted, dense and deafening sounds.

Even within more recognisable Hawley structures, “Seek It,” electronica is introduced adding additional atmosphere behind a beautiful, lilting melodic composition while “The Wood Colliers Grave,” and “Before” both exhibit gloomier, bleaker ambiances. “

Standing at the Sky’s Edge” must surely startle a number of Richard Hawley fans, just the heavy-duty riffage of “Down in the Woods” throwing the dinner party crowd into consternation, fumbling desperately for a mellower soundtrack to accompany the pate de foie gras starter.   It proves Richard Hawley unafraid of bucking convention, unhappy to continue a safe and much explored path, prepared instead to experiment and challenge, making this, not just an album of the month, also a contender for the year.   

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