Love Is Magic

I was back at The Albert Hall on Saturday night to see John Grant, the venue far fuller than it was the night before for The House Of Love (and in an unprecedented turn of events I was offered a ticket for Parquet Courts on Sunday night but 3 nights on the bounce was pushing it). I’m not really familiar with much of John Grant’s work and was offered the ticket by a friend who’d got a spare. Grant is promoting his new album Love is Magic and spent much of the gig alternating between standing centre stage at the mic singing in his rich baritone over club-inspired thumpers, Roland synth basslines squiggling away, and sitting at the keyboards and playing more personal songs, accompanied by a full band including ex- Banshee and Creature Budgie on drums. Budgie’s contribution was immense, live kit plus electronic drum pads. Dressed in cowboy shirt and trucker gap with a heavy beard Grant looks like he’s come straight out of the Mid-West but his dancing suggests time spent in nightclubs and his lyrics are full and frank and witty. I’d listened to this one before going out…

I’m not enough of a fan to be able to tell you exactly which songs were played- the internet tells me that Glacier, Disappointed, No More Tangles, Pale Green Ghost and Voodoo Doll were favourites among those who were there. A lot of his songs reminded me of film songs or show tunes, clever lines detailing a life lived with mistakes but few regrets. Set closer Queen Of Denmark, a song I did know before the gig, was a highlight, the crowd singing along with him and waving their hands in the air. The last few songs saw Richard Hawley appear, double denim and red guitar, spraying feedback across the front of the stage and then playing face to face.

This song was second up, Grant’s hips wiggling and hand gestures cutting shapes in the light show. Well worth a few minutes of your time today.

Early Morning Rain

‘m going to ease myself into Monday with this sprightly Richard Hawley cover of Early Morning Rain. The song was written by Gordon Lightfoot, a hit in 1966, and has been covered by many, from Bob Dylan to Elvis to Neil Young to Paul Weller. In the song, the narrator stands at a wire fence watching a Boeing 707 take off, taking someone far away. This mood seems about right for a Monday morning in September.

Early Morning Rain

Thinking about it now, with some time distance between us, I vastly prefer this Richard Hawley to the grungy riff monster of his last album.

Now I want to hear the fragile post-acid trip comedown Hawley of Can You Hear The Rain, Love? from the Late Night Final album which may well be the best, most beautiful thing he’s ever done.


Our son Isaac is 15 years old today. Born at break of day in 1998, with a genetic disease we knew nothing about and had never heard of (Hurlers Disease, MPS 1), he has had a life punctuated by hospital, illness and medical appointments. He also lives his life to the full. He goes to a special needs secondary school which he loves, wears a hearing aid and a cochlear implant (which has changed his life in the last two years), and as the picture shows he enjoys the ladies underwear departments of major retail outlets. He joins two young people with special needs groups for activities and a social life with peers locally- services which the Tory bastards at Trafford Council are trying to cut by over 50%, allegedly in the name of ‘personalisation’. I think we may end up seeing them in court. Given that he has been within minutes of death several times in his early life, and survived both meningitis and a minor stroke in 2008, I sometimes think it’s a miracle he’s made it to 15. Not that I believe in miracles, not your religious type of miracle anyway. And on he goes, defeating and confounding expectations along the way. Happy birthday Isaac.

This is Mr Richard Hawley, live on BBC 6 Music.

As The Dawn Breaks (live session version)

Nights Under Canvas

I’m off camping after work tonight, three nights in a field with the family and three other families in the Lake District. Weather forecast is dry enough not to cancel. Red wine and airbeds ahoy! Pop the corks and let the nippers run free. See you late Monday or Tuesday my amigos.

The Nights Are Cold (acoustic version)

Hawley Philharmonic

Richard Hawley performed a set accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra for 6 Music recently, a selection of songs off his latest album and some older ones. You can listen to it here (but only for the next few days). Introduced by Jarvis Cocker at the Great Hall at Magna near Sheffield, it’s in two parts and doesn’t start until about half an hour in. I’m not always a fan of orchestral versions of pop songs but this is stunning in parts. Hawley has a track record of playing in off the beaten track places, playing in gig in The Devil’s Arse a few years back. The Devil’s Arse is an underground cavern in Castleton, Derbyshire.

Standing At The Sky’s Edge

A teaser for Bagging Area’s favourite 50s throwback Richard Hawley, where a dollop of deep, rich psychedelia gets added to the pot. Album out May 7th, a single Leave Your Body Behind out Monday (also at Youtube). Another Sheffield reference too.

I’ll Declare My Intent To Race Again

There are people I know who don’t ‘get’ Richard Hawley- ‘country and rockabilly from Sheffield, so what?’ they say. One of them got into Coles Corner a few years back, so I lent him the first three albums (the mini album debut, Late Night Final and Lowedges). He didn’t like them. Eh? Bagging Area likes Richard Hawley, his sincere devotion to it, his northerness, his dress sense, and especially those first three records; lower budget maybe but the songs are great. Run For Me from Lowedges was a stately guitar led tribute to motorcycle racing, open armed and wide eyed but with a side helping of melancholy. The version of Run For Me here was recorded for a BBC 6 Music show, a re-working of the song- just piano with some pedal steel guitar coming in half way through and Hawley’s rich vocals.

Guiding My Boat

Richard Hawley has never sounded better than on this 2003 B-side (Run For Me was the single, from the Lowedges album). It’s a cover version but sounds much like a hymn. In Hawley’s hands, with a huge guitar sound and his deep, enveloping voice it’s a song that picks you up, gives you a hug and sends you on your way.

Troublesome Waters.mp3

Hearts Are The Easiest Things You Can Break

When The Jesus And Mary Chain covered someone else’s song it came with shards of feedback, broken glass, earsplitting volume and a gallon of Special Brew. So it seems only fitting that when covering them Richard Hawley should head in the other direction- keeping the girl group drum pattern, and then layering rich vox, twanging guitars and some lushness to the Reid brothers ode to a girl, or drugs, or possibly just candy. Cracking cover version to set off an unseasonably sunny Sunday.

06. Some Candy Talking.mp3

Richard Hawley ‘Happy Families’

Richard Hawley seems like a decent chap. When this first solo record came out back in 2001 he seemed like Morrissey and Marr wrapped up in one package, but filtered through the 50’s rock ‘n’ roll and the pubs and working mens’ clubs of Sheffield rather than Salfordian kitchen sink dramas and early Stones’ singles. As he’s gone on his records have got bigger sounding, acquired better production, more players and gained more sales as a result, but to me he never sounded better than on this little track, the final song from his self-titled mini-album debut. With more echo than the Mersey Tunnel, and some deft lyrical touches (‘The night is long, the DJ’s gone, there’s only us, the friendly ones’) this is perfect, like the last swig from the bottom of a good pint.

07 Happy Families.wma