Mayer Hawthorne: A Strange Arrangement (Rhythmethod)

 |   |  1 min read

Mayer Hawthorne: Maybe So, Maybe No
Mayer Hawthorne: A Strange Arrangement (Rhythmethod)

There's a lot of soul -- and faux-soul -- around these days what with Duffy, Amy Winehouse (is she still around?), James Hunter, Beth Rowley who gives it a blues and rock twist, Alice Russell with a funk spin and, on the local front, Opensouls.

Of them all, on paper at least, Hawthorne might have the hardest task persuading an audience of his credibility: a buttoned-down and bespectacled white guy who looks more like a Britpop guitarist?

But he comes from just outside Detroit, grew up on the first movement of soul (Motown, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Curtis Mayfield) and here successfully manages to channel the spirit and style, if not always the sighing vocals, of his heroes.

He astutely opens this debut album with a 25 second Prelude which references Brian Wilson vocal harmonies and whitebread pop vocal groups of the Fifties as if to restate that these people took black music too. And then he is straight into an album of Smokey Robinson-styled ballads, songs in which he sounds like one-man Temptations (without quite the ache or gravitas) and Spinners, Stylistics, the Dramatics, Harold Melvin, the Floaters . . .

He does Philly soul as much as Motown, his lyrics have the same kind of storytelling characteristics as Smokey and Arthur Alexander, the arrangements suitably honour the influences without being too directly derivative, and the whole thing has a warm and honest Sixties-production to it.

There are "lost classics" here -- Your Easy Lovin' steals just the right amount of Motown bassline, handclap and saxophone that it could slip unnoticed onto a classic hits station -- and despite the odds (and the occasional lack of vocal power) this one succeeds in being a homage with a life of its own.

Proof? Down at my local store the eye-liner'n'tatts girls who looked they were more into Cut Off Your Hands and the Mint Chicks had it on repeat-play and said they were loving it.

They won't be alone.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Anthonie Tonnon: Successor (Canape King/Southbound)

Anthonie Tonnon: Successor (Canape King/Southbound)

Strange isn't it, how a single song by an artist can resonate in ways you can't comprehend? For me Anthonie Tonnon's song Barry Smith from Hamilton (on his Fragile Thing EP of 2010, when he was... > Read more

Mike Cooper: Trout Steel (Paradise of Bachelors/Southbound)

Mike Cooper: Trout Steel (Paradise of Bachelors/Southbound)

A few weeks ago when Elsewhere reviewed the predominantly guitar instrumental/experimental album Cantos de Lisboa by Steve Gunn and Mike Cooper, we confessed to knowing little about Cooper who... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Multiple award winner Robillard founded Roomful of Blues in the late Sixties, was in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and has been playing for more than four decades, and shows no signs of slowing with... > Read more

Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

When the recording of Blue Smoke by the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette was released in February 1949, the Second World War had only been over for around three and half years. The memories of loved... > Read more