I had reservations about listening to Richard Hawley’s 2009 effort Truelove’s Gutter after being so in awe of 2012’s Standing at the Sky’s Edge, especially after remembering I was more immediately struck by singles from the latter than the former. Basing my thoughts on my familiarity with Sky’s Edge and a handful of Hawley singles only, I didn’t think I could be as instantly by Truelove’s Gutter as I was by Sky’s Edge. And I wasn’t, but only because of the mood of this album. Slower and more contemplative, this album doesn’t have the riffs and power of Sky’s Edge, but it has atmosphere in spades and an intense power of a different kind.
Listening to Truelove’s Gutter is like stumbling upon the love letters of a stranger whose life and love affair ended decades past. Honesty and intimacy bind every word and contemplation clings to every instrumental nuance, with each pause purposeful – or otherwise unaided by words.
Truelove’s Gutter has the heart of an acoustic album, but is afforded its soul by the atmosphere polished strings and the occasional wail of an electric guitar bring. At the forefront of the music, Hawley’s way with words is two-fold, considering both lyrics and vocals. His poetry of recounted love and internalised rumination should often sting, but instead serenades and comforts as his deep voice croons with solemn assurance.
With only eight tracks but nearing an hour in length, Truelove’s Gutter has songs that average five or six minutes in length, with a couple of tracks nudging the ten minute mark. Clearly not an album crafted for singles, delicateness and care seem to be the foundation of Truelove’s Gutter. Indeed, it is so nice to listen to an album whose songs are complete as individual tracks but find new life between others. It allows a larger picture and deeper spectrum of emotion to form, like the individual letters of a continuing conversation reveal the wealth of careful consideration behind each word. Open Up Your Door and For Your Lover Give Some Time, the album’s singles, do find their feet alone but, especially in the case of the latter, their incomplete narratives and seemingly odd structure of sound become whole in context of the album.
Having said this, I find it interesting to note that two of Truelove’s Gutter‘s most beautiful tracks are two of its shortest: Ashes in the Fire and Don’t Get Hung Up in Your Soul. However, the album’s ten-minute-beasts (Remorse Code, the fourth of eight tracks, and Don’t You Cry, the album’s beautiful closer) are in fact not beasts at all. Gentle but purposeful and pulsing, these songs are crucial to cementing the central sound of the album. They prove the attraction of cohesion and pave the album’s broader mood, eclipsing any lingering notion of a short-term attentiveness.
I’m willing the universe that this level of coherency of lyrics and style is found in all of Hawley’s albums, because this is something so vital in a world of stand-alone singles. I could overlook an absence of maturity and masterful craftsmanship in a younger Richard Hawley (his first solo album was released in 2001), but I would be perhaps disproportionately disappointed if his earlier work,, wasn’t as polished with uniformity as Truelove’s Gutter.