The wild hills of mid-Wales provide Andrew Hawkey with invigorating and peaceful long walks on a daily basis: his own company and the wilderness a perfect combination, and a fertile space to conjure up songs.
The ten, elegant songs on this collection meld nostalgia with hope, warmth with knowing observations. They are deftly styled to create a light sense of freedom as well as an overall landscape of evocative and sage lyrics blessed with melodies you can't ignore.
Long Story Short - his first release in five years - is a reflection and often poignant declaration of the 77-year-old Cornish-born Hawkey's personal concerns, including climate crisis on the commandingly dark and brooding, spoken word Stony Land, where whistling wind tops and tails this, the longest track. "Little sister Sue / Went to search for Dan / I guess they drowned in '24 / When the oceans overran."
The tone couldn't be more contrasting on Jones On Me with its soulful slide and groove, a song that would easily slip on to a Van Morrison set list. You Knew, written by Zoe "Llani" Spencer, is one of only two covers: it's so unhurried and lush with the album co-producer, Clovis Phillips' guitar shining extra light on a track I just didn't want it to run out at three minutes.
Opening song, Dear Friend, invites us into the album in an enticing, understated and sumptuous way: "And so dear friend, let distance lend / Enchantment to the memories we're sharing / from our passages through time." His hushed vocals are delicate as a light breeze with the sterling accompaniment blending, never overstated.
And I don't know how many times I have listened to the David Olney-like Golden Heart (On A Rusty Chain) because it is simply wonderful. His excellent band kicks in as eagerly as a bunch of kids running into a sweetie shop - bet they smiled all the way through this glowing, country rock gem as Hawkey sings: "..and when she sees the danger signs / She reaches up to touch that heart again / 'Cos she trusts her golden heart on a rusty chain."
Everything on the album is cautiously but neatly delivered and grounded to help pile on the charm with the help of trusty players - Clovis Phillips (acoustic and electric guitars, bass drums and percussion); David Rothon (pedal steel); Penny Joubert (banjo and backing vocals); Bel Merriman and Zoe Spencer on backing vocals.
We can but hope that more music from Andrew Hawkey's walks on the wild side will be gently blowing our way again. This is a worthy follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2015 offering, What Did I Come Up Here For?
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