Having previously postponed his hometown gig twice due to the re-occurrence of a rare bone disorder which affects his finger, it's third time lucky for Sheffield songsmith Richard Hawley. The Leadmill is comfortably full as he unassumingly saunters on stage with his four-piece band. "Before anyone asks it wasn't a wanking injury" he jokes before launching into the aptly titled 'Coming Home' from his self titled debut LP. Shorn of the strings and studio paraphernalia this is a stripped down and more human sound compared to the studio material, a format that very much suits the rich tones of his voice and the subtle textures of the songs.

The Hawley vibe is unashamedly retro (names such as Roy Orbison, the Walker Brothers, Chris Isaak and, more recently, Edwyn Collins come to mind) and in current musical climes could be considered a tad uncool, more Radio 2 than Radio 1. Equally, though, there's much merit in Hawley's back-to-the-basics approach, and the championing of good, old-fashioned song writing and balladry, much in a similar manner to what Billy Bragg did in the 1980s. Add to that a genuine pride in the city of your birth and you start to get the frequency.

Predictably we get a hefty slice of his critically acclaimed latest 'Lowedges' LP but not before we're treated to the shimmering beauty of last year's single and stand-out track from his last album 'Late Night Final' - 'Baby You're My Light' - a song that, with any justice in the music world, would have comfortably made the number one spot. There's a more low key feel to the new material, the gentle nostalgia-tinged lilt of 'Darlin', the fantastically titled 'You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your River Runs Dry)' and the current single, 'Run for Me' which crashes and soars while the singer lays himself bare.

Hawley matches the number of songs with guitar changes (lap steels, f-holes, 12 strings – you name it) but we can forgive him this apparent self-indulgence – “I’ve just collected a lot of guitars over the years”. ‘The Motorcycle Song’, another high point of the set, encapsulates Hawley’s appeal quite nicely. Not a full throttle tribute to two wheels as one might expect, more a forlorn tale of pushing a Triumph Trophy back home with a tank full of holes. “One of the best three songs I’ve written” he tells us.

After more humorous quips, including parochial references to Fir Vale School, Sheffield City council's architectural misdemeanours and a surreal rant about the virtues of Sham 69 (!) the hour plus set draws to a close. "Thanks, you've been rare good". Aye lad - you weren't so bad yerself.

The photographs that accompany this article were taken by C.M. Saunders and originally appeared on his website www.cmsaunders.com

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