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Andrew Hawkey - Long Story Short

  by Adrian Janes

published: 25 / 6 / 2020

Andrew Hawkey - Long Story Short
Label: Mole Lodge Records
Format: CD


Veteran Cornish singer-songwriter Andrew Hawkey's reflections of where he’s been and where the world is going on his fourth album

Andrew Hawkey has been a Wales-based singer-songwriter, session player, producer and frequent live performer over several decades. But his recorded output up until now has been limited to two albums in the 1980s and 2015’s ‘What Did I Come Up Here For?’ Now in his late seventies, his latest ultimately finds him thinking about his own story and how his mortality might be reflected in the fate of the planet. It’s an intimate album, often feeling like a relaxed, open-hearted conversation between Hawkey and the first song’s ‘Dear Friend’, a gentle ballad based around the subtle interplay of acoustic guitars. A (North) American thread runs through several songs, pedal steel and banjo giving a country feel to ‘Golden Heart (On A Rusty Chain)’, a rueful reflection on what seems to the singer an elusive woman, but who others will hear as admirably independent. ‘Jones On Me’ is a wry, country-soul take on a spiky relationship (“Is it really your intention/To spin me round and round?/I guess you want a reaction/To show I’m where you want me to be”). There’s also a fine cover of cult Canadian Bob Carpenter’s poignant ‘The Believer’, which from its voice and acoustic beginning gradually draws in a more flowing guitar, then bass and finally keyboard, in an arrangement that’s simple, yet emotionally powerful. ‘A Little More’ is, like the title track, a reflection on the singer’s past and also a rumination on his fears for humanity’s future (or lack of): “I heard the planet tell the moon/The human race is over soon/They’re in the final afternoon/And headed into night”, lines which demonstrate Hawkey’s deft lyrical simplicity. ‘Long Story Short’ itself is suitably brief, but still has time to warn: “Now we’re leaving our footprints/Of history behind us/But the waters are rising/To cover the sand”, though for himself he feels able to say “I still did what I ought to.” Whether that will be said of humans in general is in the balance right now: ‘Stony Land’ depicts a barren, post-apocalypse landscape. To emphasise the starkness of this world, Hawkey adopts an uncharacteristically low growl of a vocal, but it sounds strained. The track works better instrumentally, the guitar as full-sounding as ever, complemented by flecks of pedal steel and stately keyboard, before it all drops away to be replaced by feedback and the sounds of a bitter wind and a cawing bird. Yet other songs offer a counterweight to these forebodings, what might even be described as moments of mindfulness. ‘Painter’ suggests the importance of taking time, like an artist, to be aware of the present instant (“It may not come again”), while ‘Spirit’ is a grateful recognition of an old feeling that has returned. Given Hawkey’s age, perhaps lines like “It was our time of the spirit/To shake the world, share the sky/Some of us let it slip away/Never stopped to wonder why”, recall the hope that for a time hippies embodied, and his quiet joy that it can still be found. ‘Spirit’ could be seen as born from different kinds of love, whether earthly or perhaps even divine, but ‘You Knew’ (a cover of a song by Zoe Spencer) is unashamedly romantic, though the music of brushed drums, shaker and acoustic guitar remains restrained, with a nicely-judged guitar break. This prevailing musical modesty calls for close listening to appreciate all that is going on in these songs, largely played by Hawkey and co-producer Clovis Phillips. They’re not complacent about either the singer’s own life or the seeming direction of the world, yet they can still supply a calming balm, especially at the present time.

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