Review from Americana-UK , July 5, 2018
by Tim Merricks
Hadnot Creek “Winter”
Winter is coming
Hadnot Creek released ‘Winter’ back in February for those of you wondering why this bleak and desolate collection of spit and sawdust Americana appears on these pages to coincide with some of the hottest days in recent memory. We might be breaking out the strawberries and cream for Wimbledon over here but Cliff Richard this is not. Formed in 2016 by Charlottesville, Virginia’s self-confessed shoegazer Rober Sawrey, Hadnot Creek brings to mind windswept log cabins on lonely mountains. Opener ‘Everyone Is Guilty Of Something’ sets the mood. It’s not just the Cash-esque depths of Sawrey’s vocals, the whole vibe is lo-fi, the lyrics harsh and the guitars delightfully fuzz-boxed in the style of Beck or early Radiohead. Acoustic guitar also plays a large part on the album, you can feel the frostbite on tracks like ‘I’m Never Far Away’ as Sawrey uses his unique talent for melancholy to suck the listener into his Neverland of unrequited love and twist the powers of sonic interpretation to make the listener hear rather an unholy perversion. Oh, the power of a well-timed violin draw!
The Beck likeness comes through again on the track ‘Jesus Radio’, one of the more left of centre tracks on offer with its jazzy snare, slide and Wurlitzer keys while Virginia honoraries the Rolling Stones’ ‘No Expectations’ is faithfully renditioned. ‘Depression Blues’ and ironic thoughts turn to how here’s a guy who makes Nick Cave look cheerful as he reflects: “Misery is your only friend/Visits you night and night again/Whispers into your ear/Claiming to be your next of kin” and its funny but sometimes hearing others ruminate on the sour side of life can give one a lift – the flock mentality. The album closes with the title track, Lucy Haden Smith’s ghostly backing vocals saturating the record in an ethereal, metaphorical blanket of winter snow.
Like a bag of old bones or a lonely dust-covered LP at the bottom of a garage sale nuanced with the clarity of a grain of dirt, this has been crafted such that it could be a hundred years old and would still trickle from your speakers like the crystal water from the North Carolina creek synonymous with the band’s name. Hadnot Creek’s ‘Winter’ is all you could ask for from contemporary Americana roots music because that’s just it, they make that word contemporary redundant – their music is that rare diamond. Timeless.
Review from A & R Factory
Posted on 23rd March 2018, Review by Amelia Vandergast
HADNOT CREEK – WINTER: SIMPLISTICALLY SUBLIME LO FI INDI FOLK
Fans of Lo Fi Indie Folk will absolutely be in heaven with Hadnot Creek’s debut track Winter. It’s a sound that would be right at home on Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild Soundtrack. It has all over the same wonder-lust soundscapes that you’d expect from an Indie Folk track, the muted vocals over the simplistic guitar rhythms creates a powerful sound that simply can’t be ignored.
The lyrics are fairly simplistic, yet that’s what gives winter an utterly sublime edge it taps into your psyche and demands you share in the melancholy with lyrics such as “I wish you were here to make you a cup of tea”. It’s that small, intrinsic nod to loss and mourning that makes Winter the ultimate evocative experience.
With other tracks in Hadnot Creek’s back catalogue titled ‘This World is Killing Me’ and ‘Temple of Gloom’ you can get an idea of where Hadnot Creek is heading with his blissful sounds, it may not be for everyone, but whilst Morrissey is still raking it in, I’d definitely say there’s more space for melancholy on the radio waves.
Musician’s roots run deep, local
Tideland News, Swansboro, NC
By Jimmy Williams, March 28, 2018
Robert Sawrey can trace his fascination with, his love of, music to the 1950s when, growing up in Hadnot Creek, he clearly recalls being moved to sadness by a Hank Williams ballad or elated by the infectious rhythms of Elvis Presley and Little Richard. Music has long been a passion. For nearly as long, the Swansboro High School and East Carolina University graduate – now a successful restaurateur living in Charlottesville, Va. – has been writing poetry.
Sawrey began writing poetry and lyrics in earnest about 40 years ago while living in Richmond, a city that had an active network of writers and folks who enjoyed the art. “The lyrics didn’t do much good because I didn’t play,” he said with a laugh in a recent interview. Later, while living in New York, he began to lean more toward writing prose. During that period, he read a lot of Raymond Carver. “He was a hero of mine,” Sawrey said. A lot of the characters that inhabit Sawrey’s songs – he calls them “hard-luck” characters – were inspired by Carver’s writings. “They don’t tell the story, the story tells them,” he said. Perhaps that explains how the songs on his recently released CD “Winter” can be so familiar: The songs tell stories we all know.
The 12-song compilation by Hadnot Creek, Sawrey’s band, includes 11 original tunes in addition to songwriter Sawrey on guitar and vocals. The indie folk-rock band includes Zach Samel on a variety of instruments, guitarist Damir Kajan and singer Lucy Haden Smith. The album, the band’s first, was released in February.
In what has been described as both ethereal and stripped down, the songs take the listener through bits and pieces of Sawrey’s life. The kernel of a song may have been a newspaper article or the sight of young woman in a wedding dress. These fragments of a memory just rolled around in Sawrey’s head until they turned into lyrics. He credits his ability to create a story to growing up in the country, a rural neighborhood in the Peletier community just up the White Oak River from Swansboro. “Hadnot Creek is now a metropolis compared to when I grew up there,” he said. “There were four families. My closest boyhood friend lived three miles away. “I spent a lot of time in my own head back then. I still do.”
Between graduating from Swansboro in 1967 and graduating from ECU in 1975, there was a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard. All that was followed by a variety of jobs, mostly in bartending and restaurant management, that took him from North Carolina, to Virginia, to Texas, to New York and back to Virginia. Through all that, he was never too far from Hadnot Creek, at least not culturally. Robert Sawrey’s songwriting is influenced by a wide variety of factors, from musicians he admires to news stories he reads. “The fact is I often write songs without thinking much about them,” he said. “Sometimes it’s like a stranger living inside my body that writes them.”
“Jack’s Talking,” for example, was the result of his “doodling around on guitar.” “Most of my songs start with lyrics first,” but in this case he said he came up with the riff first. “I kept trying to add words as I played and ended up rhyming the word ‘home’ with ‘extra chromosome.’ And then the phrase DNA popped in my head,” he said. When he woke up the next morning, he said he wrote the rest of the song in one sitting. It’s about teenage boys involved in a scheme to take advantage of a young girl with special needs – based on the real-life story from the 1980s when seven high school football players from Glen Ridge, N.J., brutally raped a young woman who had an IQ of 64. “If you watch the news you’ll hear plenty of stories about people convicted years after they’ve committed crimes based on DNA,” Sawrey said. “Obviously in this song the young girl is murdered and years pass by without enough evidence for charges. And then Jack starts talking. By this time, our narrator is married with a young son.” A veteran and Sunday school teacher, the narrator would rather just forget the entire episode. “I have such ambivalent feelings about him,” Sawrey said. “For one, he wasn’t the one who murdered the girl. In fact, he never even had sex with her. His guilt was complicit in nature. There’s a side of me that feels sorry for him. It must be awful carrying that kind of guilt around with you. But a young girl was murdered and he never owed up to it. In the end my sympathy lies with the young girl.”
“Everyone Is Guilty of Something” is a song inspired by the legendary bluesman Howling Wolf.
“But it quickly morphed from the blues to more of a rock thing. It was great fun,” Sawrey said. “The lyrics speak for themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re a saint or sinner … chances are you’re guilty of something.
“Let’s just hope we never find ourselves like this character did sitting in the backseat of a police car on its way down to the station.
“When I dial back to Hadnot Creek between the years of 1956 and 1958 I hear the steady constant of music being played, whether it was coming from my father’s truck or packhouse radio or from the shiny black 45s spinning round and round on my teenage cousin Jo Ann’s record player,” he recalled. “The sounds were different though. “My father mainly listened to country music; Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Kitty Wells, Ray Price and Hank Thompson. Those songs were drenched in Americana and more often than not told the story of ordinary, hardworking, hard drinking and long suffering people. Even as a little boy I could connect to these songs because there was something so real to them unlike the majority of mainstream ‘paint it by the numbers’ stuff coming out of Nashville these days. Hearing Hank Williams sing, ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ was heartbreakingly sad. You knew it came from a place deep inside his soul. Even as a little boy I could feel the pain.”
Cousin Jo Ann’s music was much different. “Most of it had a jumping beat, made for dancing,” Sawrey said. “There was Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Wanda Jackson, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.
“Many thought this was ‘the devil’s music,’ but I could not have cared less, I was hooked, totally mesmerized.”
At 7 years old, he recalled, he was working on his “Elvis moves.” “My father warned me that Elvis was nothing more than a flash in the pan and would soon be forgotten in year or two,” he said. “It was one of the few times my father was dead wrong although I never had the courage to remind him of how far off the mark he was.”
The stories, the shared history, also played a role in shaping Sawrey’s outlook. “I loved listening to my father and other farmers gathered around a potbellied stove smoking cigarettes and drinking Coca-Colas at Jim Young’s store or my mother and the African-American women who helped us in the summer stringing up tobacco as it was brought in from the fields. They were lovely, kind women who I adored.” He distinctly recalled Tina Jones, who regularly gave him candy treats, Mary Janes, as being like a second mother. “Tina believed in ghosts and her stories were so convincing I almost believed in them to,” Sawrey said. “But there were plenty of other stories as well, many of them dark. There was talk about young girls getting pregnant, about men who would get drunk and beat up their wives. I learned early on there was danger in the world and you should do your best to avoid it.”
Not too far from his home, about a mile, was the historic Hadnot Creek Primitive Baptist Church, established in the late 1700s. His grandmother was a member. “There were stories there as well,” Sawrey said. “Some of them were Calvinist fire and brimstone but the stories that interested me the most were when the elders spoke about their own spiritual awakening.”
Email Jimmy Williams at email@example.com.
3.8 out of 5
By Matt Jensen of Divide and Conquer
Hadnot Creek is an indie folk rock band formed by Robert Sawrey in 2016 and recently released Winter. Some of the other core members are Zach Samel, Damir Kajan and Lucy Dass-Smith. There are other notable contributors such as Tyler and Lee Sargent who were former members of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, cellist Ted Stuart, guitarist Bu Quarles, and blues singer Eli Cook.
Sawrey points to artists like Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Sparklehorse. I will admit I already liked his taste and was excited to hear what he had to offer. Sawrey offered heartfelt performances and songs that were often dipped in nostalgia and melancholy. His vocal delivery fit the bill and wraps around the words like a man who has had some hurt and heartache.
The album starts with one of the more upbeat songs entitled “Everyone is Guilty of Something.” On this song in particular I thought Sawrey sounded somewhere between Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen. It’s a driving song, although there is an upbeat quality to the music there are still dark overtones that fill out the song.
Up next is “I'm Okay” which feels quite different in approach. The drums are gone and it is an atmospheric song built upon guitar, harmonica and vocals. “I'm Never Far Away” is a beautiful track with orchestral strings where some of that Tom Waits influence starts to become apparent.
“I'm Never Far Away” was a highlight. The song embraces the atmospheric aesthetic of “I'm Okay” but contains additional instrumentation and the vocal melodies were a little more catchy to my ear. “No Expectations” is another great song with solid background vocals and slide guitar. The next song that stuck was “Depression Blues” which I thought actually had a little more of a Nick Cave vibe but I think he's in a similar vein to some of the aforementioned artists.
I continually enjoyed the more melancholy borderline dismal lyrics like on “You’re So Lost” mainly because the vocals were able to match the feeling of the words. That being said I’m glad they threw in a more upbeat song like “Is There Something Going on Here?” before getting to the more reflective and melancholy closing title track.
This is a great album and I thought some songs in particular were exceptional. I think if you are a fan of any of the artists listed above you will be happy you discovered this.