Review Summary: How would popular music sound like if 1960s revolution had never happened?
Rock'n'roll music has been for a long time music for young made by (mainly) young people. Then was possibly worse than now (cold war, fear of communism, racism), but then rock'n'roll didn't care for it. The only thing that mattered was how to get The Girl and live happily ever after. Of course, I am talking about 1950s in USA.
Richard Hawley musically explores this period. He relies on guitars, acoustic and electric, with decent help of piano and strings. Very rarely he uses synths or other tricks of modern production.
Cole's Corner was a popular meeting place for couples in Sheffield. So this album can be considered as tribute to the place that no longer exists. What makes this album so vivid and present is bringing palette of emotions. On his previous two albums and EP, he developed his unmistakable sense how to music of 1950s translate to to 2000s. On "Cole's Corner" Hawley is not only musical explorer, he is also the main character. His singing is more expressive and colorful than on previous albums, playing is more soulful, and production is well balanced, that allows moments of silence to be meaningful and dramatic.
The most important things from 1950s that unfortunately never got old are longing for perfect one, fear of separation and/or loneliness, fear of reject and what if that fears come true (sometimes all rolled into one). That fears were here rarely better described, in structure of rock song.
The album begins with the title track; really heavyweight contender. Its opening chords perfectly set the tone for the whole album, and successfully disarm any cynicism. Maybe this song is too complex for opening track, but folks, this is the album you will listen many times, and it is possibly the best track on the album. Then comes bittersweet uptempo song"Just Like the Rain", in my opinion the most accessible track and "Hotel Room", a waltz, lovely soundtrack for romantic dinners with "Here in my arms" refrain. A quieter "Darlin' Wait For Me" follows, and then comes "The Ocean" and the wave - as the song says. "The Ocean" was picked as first single, which is strange for me, because of impressionistic and a bit ambiental and introverted sound. The next songs are quieter and somehow bitter: "Born Under A Bad Sign" (again waltz), Johnny Cash-like "I Sleep Alone" and meditative "Tonight" and "(Wading Through) The Waters". Guitars are charmingly subliminal on "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet" - that shows the power of Hawley's voice. The last song, a piano-dominated instrumental, is not so conventional in structure, it make picture: dead of night where is all quiet, there are flashbacks or waves which hit the rocks. Unusual, but effective closing.
Conclusion? I warn you, Richard, one more album like this, and you will never walk alone. There will always be some fans around you.