Andrew HawkeyAndrew Hawkey
Album: What Did I Come Up Here For
Label: Mole Lodge
Tracks: 12

There's a wistfulness, a sense of sorrow but also a generous sprinkling of fond memories in the hugely gracious and intimate songs that Andrew Hawkey has brought to share on this memorable album.

It is a beguiling look at his life although at times it feels humbling to be involved as the listener such is the intensity of his gentle lyrics and flowing melodies.

Cornish-born but based in the wild hills of mid-Wales since the early 70s - including five in the crumbling, mountainside farmhouse, Maes Mynach, whose previous occupants included Albert Lee and his Heads Hands and Feet cohorts - Hawkey's first solo release in 32 years is, as he readily admits, "a collection of 12 reflective, articulate and often unashamedly sentimental songs".

What he fails to say and needs to be declared is that they are honest, beautifully constructed, endlessly rewarding and passionately delivered in ways that remind me, pleasingly, of Mike Scott and his Waterboys at their most delightful heights with warm hints of Christy Moore charm and Nick Drake dreaminess in there, too.

While the airy feel of the wilderness undoubtedly lingers, the songs are heartwarming, heart-tugging, even, and delivered with deft touches and no little grace by Hawkey and his band: Stuart Maman Bolton (bass, lead and slide guitars), David Cornelius Eger (mandolin), Gordon Jones (drums) with a guest appearance by Sian James, Wales' premier traditional folk singer and harpist on the glorious Wild Flowers, the longest track.

Second track, Apple Green has a soft, pop-like sheen as Hawkey remembers a former love via photogrpahs that show "…smiles in the doorway, skirt of apple green/ Loveliest face I have ever seen" and how now he's able to work out what went wrong: "…35 years or more have passed/I'm closer to the truth at last/ I can see it in this faded photograph."

Casting his eye longingly to the past is also evident on the magnificent Treasure of Time, where Hawkey sings 'just remember you can't put a price on the treasure of time". Or on a beautiful song, for that matter.

He returns fondly to his young woman of Apple Green on Invitation (for N.T.) - they are the woman's initials - which was recorded to cassette in 1984 and restored for this album. The lyrics are compelling: "There's a soft summer mist in the valley, and the gutters are chuckling with rain/and I'm so looking forward / to having you around me again."

With more than a thousand gigs over 21 years with UK bluesman, Pat Grover's Blue Zeros, Hawkey mainly ignores the genre on this album, preferring to focus on the evocative tales that have formed his life.

This album, handsomely packaged with a 16-page, full-colour booklet, is a gem and succumbing to its powerful reflections is such a pleasure.

Mike Ritchie

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