A real new talent emerging. Hamish James Hawk. Aznavour.


You could waste an awful lot of time trying to pigeonhole the debut album by Hamish James Hawk.  But what would be the point?  Because you won’t really find a pigeon that fits.

In the year of Scottish Independence it’s a delight to hear a new, confident, Scottish voice emerge that really stops you in your tracks.

And it’s not often that  a new voice appears that makes you think “that’s proper different.”  Paolo did it when he emerged.  Willy Mason too I guess.  James Yorkston.  And King Creosote of course.

Now you can add to that list, Hamish James Hawk.

Aside from Willy Mason, in the esteemed list above, the common thread is an authentic Scots twang.  Not that this feels, to me, like a record obsessed by Scottish life.  Yet clearly it draws much of its lyrical inspiration from this mighty land and it’s probably no coincidence that Hawk has recently been hanging about with the King himself, Kenny Anderson.

His choice of album title surely alludes to great aspirations.  Aznavour (the French Sinatra) crooned his way to fame and fortune but it’s a slightly odd choice of title because I’d place him nearer to another great crooner, of sorts, Leonard Coen, stylistically.

‘Slow, simple, just the right amount of blue’ says Hawk’s Soundcloud profile and that’s just about right.  The album never tries too hard.  Never over-elaborates, but at the same time, never loses momentum. It’s blue in places, but it ain’t the Blues.

The 10 tracks are dominated by acoustic guitar and vocal (the odd bodran creeps in) with very occasional multi tracking and tambourine.  But essentially this is true singer songwriter country – with nowhere to hide.

The vocals have to be spot on throughout, and they are, in their rich baritone, treading into second tenor territory from time to time..

Opener Ramshackle intones in a slightly syncopated  rhythm (subconsciously Camberwick Green inspired perhaps?) “After 100 years of this you’ll be standing on your last legs, and when you finally open your eyes, you might be dead (aside: where were we?)”

“You have a heart with two left feet and a head full of home brew.”

After the whistled intro to John Cooper Clarke he pulls a peach out of his lyrical hat “My friend went into hospital with a glass lung and a broken heart.”

It all goes a little bit crazy on Oh! Bernard, a song about a party pseudo, a professor, where Hawk lets rip with a full backing ensemble.  “Some say you are boring, and others agree.  But no one can rival your unbridled love for Don Quixote.”  Magic.

His style is dryly witty, observational storytelling and it’s clear the lyrics have been crafted and wrung out over many a draft to reach taut and engaging outcomes.

“My singing partner moved to Norway.  That’s fine by me.”  Frankly, that’s his singing partner’s loss, not his.

Here he is in full flow singing Unlucky, unlikely, the album’s closer.

All in all, a fantastic and sensitively produced debut that delivers many excellent moments and augurs well for a  succesful carrier in the heartland of Scottish folk.


Webpage goes live soon  http://www.hjhmusic.com



John Grant. The Queen of Denmark. (supported by Midlake)

Midlake are greedy bastards.  Not satisfied with making perhaps the album of the year (The Comfort of others) they have colluded with bandless stablemate John Grant to make eh, perhaps, the album of the year.  So expect to see Midlake feature heavily in the year end lists.

This is a very Midlake album.  It has their arrangements, touches and noodles for a start.  It strays back into Van Occupanther territory in that it explores 70’s soft rock influence (Barry Manilow, Elton John) as opposed to 70’s folk which caught their ear in The Comfort of Others.

But this is not a Midlake album.  It is most assuredly John Grant’s.  Stridently gay in its copy and occasionally whimsical, it packs a meaty punch.

I was blown away on first listening and then it got better.  The gayness of it is very evident.  But it’s what makes the album, because it gives him lyrical richness.  He combines a mix of ‘fuck you’ attitude and humour.  I have to say the only downsides of the album is when he overindulges in the humour and when Midlake over-noodle on the keyboards.

It’s a thing of very great beauty.  If you like Anthony and the Johnsons but hated his voice this might be more to your liking, Because it’s outrageously mellow.

For fans of Midlake this is required listening. (In fact I will hazard a guess that some of you who saw Comfort of Others as a retrograde step will find this re-engaging you.)

This is a great record in anyone’s language.  If it sells 5,000 copies in the UK I’ll be amazed.  Please be one of them?