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The Best Holiday Party of the Season

By Lizz Kannenberg in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 6, 2007 7:13PM

2007_12_hawley.jpgChicagoist recently had a conversation with a friend about our favorite "Christmas albums without Christmas songs," records that remind us of the holiday season without being full of carols and borderline-obnoxious good cheer. Our consensus choice was Richard Hawley's Coles Corner, a sprawling exploration of the warmest, most soothing, and dreamiest echelons of the singer-songwriter tradition.

The cozy comfort of that album's 50's and 60's pop production, a la Roy Orbison or Elvis' quieter moments, is Hawley's signature mark, and you can't help but feel enveloped in the songs' hazy ambiance. It's kind of like the easy joy of taking in a cup of hot chocolate in front of a dying fire and lit by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.

Hawley's melodies are purely vintage but effortlessly timeless, in the same way the traditions of the holidays bring comfort through their familiarity. Even if you've never heard the Mercury Prize-nominated Coles Corner before, you'll feel as though you'd been listening to it since you were still in the womb.

Lady's Bridge, is Hawley's latest effort, and is the album that finally sees the northern England native embark on a U.S. tour. On this disc the grittier side of his influences show through, with rockabilly swagger injecting itself into the poignant songcraft. Accolades from Thom Yorke, Jarvis Cocker, and Chris Martin have raised expectations that Hawley meets with ease, ensuring that U.S. audiences are heading home after his live shows this winter full of warmth and satisfaction that has little to do with the tinsel on the lamposts.

Richard Hawley plays the Abbey Pub tonight, 9:00 p.m., $15