Scott Hawley's Austin-made debut EP, 'Partial,' is an intriguing and catchy album. The CD is best described as a close and personal look at Hawley's life thus far. It's intriguing that it can be so moving, from the stirring rhythms of the quirky alt-rock 'Quiver' to the building force of the neo-folk anthem 'Fumble.' It's catchy in that you'll pause to take in the emotion of the quiet 'How Good You've Been,' and find yourself whistling the theme to 'Nothing's Wrong' well after you've finished listening to the CD. And then there's the other track, 'Different Today,' which just kicks ass, via some powerful acoustic guitar technique borrowed from the late Michael Hedges. Singer-songwriter Hawley has taken influences from folk, rock, R&B (as on 'Nothing's Wrong'), and acoustic fingerstyle, and with the help of producer Stephen Doster (who has worked with Lyle Lovett, Dr. John and Double Trouble, and others), has delivered five careful vignettes in the rootsy vein Austin is known for. The songs deal with the modern American struggles for meaning and purpose, love and acceptance, truth and transcendence. Hawley's emphasis on hooky melodies makes the songs almost instantly entertaining, but the lyrical depth may surprise you, for the lyrics are the real reasons that people tune in to Scott Hawley's songs. (The experience of 'Wait a minute, did he just say what I think he said?' may happen more than once.) Although the songs themselves are the stars on this album, vocal and instrumental parts contributed by Hawley, Doster and the other musicians shine in their own rights. Doster (who was Nanci Griffith's guitarist for years) pulls off some killer solos and some gut-twisting backing parts, whereas Hawley's voice is fluid, once sultry and later strident. The beautiful cello lines played by Brian Standefer (cellist for Patty Griffin) and the intricate drumming of Kevin Gathright help to accent the artistic spirit of the songs. Each song is quite different from the rest, yet they form a cohesive whole, thanks to Hawley's unique perspective as a writer and Doster's experience as a producer. It's noteworthy that this album would come off so well despite the demands of Hawley's (rather different) day job, in which he does research in theoretical physics as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. Says Hawley, 'The physics helps keep me off the streets, but music is a field where I can really put my heart into the work.' A songwriter who connects the heart and mind? Press 'play' to experience for yourself. -- Joel O'Brien.
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