In October last year legendary guitarist Duane Eddy and Sheffield crooner Richard Hawley shared a stage together at London’s Clapham Grand for a JD Sessions gig. It was memorable for their rendition of Pulp‘s Something Changed, with Hawley’s ex-bandmate Jarvis Cocker; a performance that preceded the announcement of Pulp’s reunion. Around the same time Eddy and Hawley were collaborating on a new record, Road Trip, which got made in a mere 11 days, with Hawley co-producing and lending his guitar skills.
The album is an exciting prospect, on paper anyway, for two primary reasons. Firstly, this is the 73-year-old’s first album of new material in roughly a quarter of a century, which will undoubtedly please any long-time fans irrespective of what material he puts out. Secondly, knowing the quality of Hawley’s solo records, which rose to a new peak with 2009’s Truelove’s Gutter, it’s a partnership that is made for each other as there are many similarities between their works.
Road Trip’s songs can be broken down into three groups. The first is the clutch of jams that are aggressive and showcase the veteran in a form as riotous as any upstart garage rock band. The Attack Of The Duck Billed Platypus opens with a roar and its cinematic feel is divine. Curveball is classic Eddy both in terms of the arrangement – a saxophone joins in the fun half-way through to give it an extra kick – and Primeval is gritty and dirty, the rawest moment on the album.
The second group consists of countrified tunes. These are not as exciting, but are nonetheless admirably charming. Mexborough Ferry Boat Halt is the best of the bunch but the title track is also satisfactory and Twango, aside from having a humorous title, is delightfully jaunty and jazzy.
The final batch of songs are the more sedate, slow-paced numbers. These aren’t special. Desert Song goes on for far longer than it needs to; it could benefit with something extra to spice it up. Rose Of The Valley and Kindness Ain’t Made Of Sound are a little more concise and lively, but they still don’t quite hit the mark. Bleaklow Air is much better, since its extra components such as piano and backing synths give it some character.
This record, whilst not the perfect return, does have plenty of enjoyable highlights. It should be said that none of this will compare to Rebel Rouser and Cannonball in the sense that it won’t set the world on fire as those early singles did. But it’s pleasing to see the ‘Master of Twang’ still making music and equally satisfying to know that his trademark style of guitar playing not only remains influential but is also as recognisible as it was half a century ago.