Every time one of Perry Como’s TV specials came on when I was a kid, I’d roll my eyes and think it was the height of comedy to call him Perry Coma. That sort of music was the path to the grave. His fans lined the halls of nursing homes drooling with a goofy half-smile and only a hint of cognizance. Maybe it’s the softening a person achieves when gazing into their baby’s eyes, or a natural weakening in aging gray matter, but now when I stumble across Como’s “It’s Impossible” or “Round and Round” my eyes close in serene reverence and a goofy half-smile crosses my face.
Richard Hawley cut his teeth with Brit-poppers Longpigs, and later toured with Pulp, but his solo work has been much less flash and more about creating a lasting legacy. Where Robbie Williams has a smirk and a tongue in his cheek and Michael Buble’s copycroon makes him the Velour Fog, Hawley’s confidence is in his sincerity. Elegant arrangements and timeless crooning meet with immediate, embraceable songs that will outlast him. He adds few frills to his comfortable baritone, but focuses rather on tone and timbre for gorgeous simplicity. Freight-train snare and standup bass make “Serious” the closest thing to a rocker here, but it’s still quite light—like if Morissey were one of the Everly Brothers.
The reflective mood of Lady’s Bridge is meant for the lowlights at the end of the day: Opening track “Valentine” sets the mood with a gentle stream of strings erupting in an overwhelming orchestral flood, while sorrow flows on “Roll River Roll,” lamenting his lost love as the piano trickles nicely like the river over his bones. Romance triumphs as though Gene Pitney had shot Liberty Valance and taken back the town without pity. The sentimental “Honey” waltzes in with acoustic scrubbing in the shadow of Ian McCulloch, while the unique baritone guitar work on “I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me” presents a more modern sound. Subtle rockabilly blends with vintage pop like Brylcreem at the Brill building. Every song is purposeful and well crafted around that Gretsch that Hawley plucks adoringly.
If I have to wear a cardigan and hike up my pants someday, I don’t mind. This music makes me glad to be alive, and grateful that there’s a Richard Hawley on this earth. But don’t let’s go releasing eight Christmas albums.