Could this be a crumb of the teased Broken Biscuits release? Richard Hawley reworks his Lowedges track, The Only Road, with a time signature change, a crisp rendition which adds strings in place of heavier instrumentals. Not the Only Road, then, technically the newest release from the Sheffield legend, is a justified change in pace which sees enough distance between the two tracks. U2 had a bit of trouble convincing of this, but their issue stemmed from failing to spark a fire under new intention, under changes to their reason and perspective. Hawley has no trouble with this, his shimmering re-recording and overhaul develop into Not the Only Road, a piece which pulls in his ballad-like form.
Delicate this release may be, it rivals the heavier, silver flames of a guitar-guided The Only Road. Still, twenty years on from the release of Lowedges, covering one of its best tracks is a fine way to pay tribute to this early, leather-jacket-wearing era. Gone are the motorbikes and obscured figure in the shadows of the sun, in comes a rendition which brings Not the Only Road into the new image fold. Now offering a direct comparison, The Only Road highlights the major changes Hawley has made since the release of Truelove’s Gutter. He has ditched the sombre, vibrant tones for well-maintained string sections and an isolation of his vocals. Not the Only Road is a tremendous rehash which hints at more around the corner.
Continuing his longstanding effectiveness as a solo musician, Not the Only Road shows Hawley’s work has the legs to last a long while. Dust off the cobwebs, bring it out of the shadows and throw it out there with a new rendition. It is a tender switch for a track with real flexibility, which the Radio Four performance from Hawley and longtime collaborator Shez Sheridan showed. Slower beats and a lower pitch bring out a track which could fit into the post-Hollow Meadows affection. Calmer, intricate and acoustic-driven in a naturalness lending itself to Hawley’s latest style, a similar structure and momentum to I Still Want You, this latest rendition of The Only Road marks enough of a change to constitute a new release, something to tease whatever comes next.
What does come next? No clue. Nothing but speculation can be afforded, immediately, to Not the Only Road, but it surely hints at something. The what and when is unknown, but the consistencies of this latest release is clear. Hawley stokes the fire once more with the openness of one of many great tracks. One from an album forgotten by the setlists and performances of the last few tours. Understandably so, the focus is always on new material. But with this new formation for an old track, there is always the chance it shines its way through a setlist. Not the Only Road has a warmth to it, a very specific intimacy, which can only be caught when adapting old words to the now. Hawley does so with the sincerity and sharpness he has in the core of all his releases. Not the Only Road is no exception to this incredible, rewarding warmth.