Jack HardyPCD 69
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
You can go on and on endlessly about the flavor of the day. The songwriter come-lately: he's fun, he's sincere, he sings his personal diary to you. Every adjective in the world has already been employed to sing the praises of the run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter.
That makes it difficult to describe Jack Hardy. So many great words could be employed to describe Hardy's songs. I'm not going to do that here, but I will try to lay a little bit of groundwork by saying that you might not appreciate the works of such noted writers and performers as John Gorka or Richard Shindell if it were not for the direct influence of Hardy and his "crow's nest" meeting of songwriters historically held at his New York City apartment.
Omens continues the Hardy legacy right where he left off with The Passing. Fourteen more Jack Hardy songs is most certainly a newsworthy event for those who would rather dig beneath the surface and leave the trite sincerity of someone's personal life stories to the pop-folk crowd. The appreciation of Hardy as master songwriter will be obvious for those willing to step back the nineteen minutes and eight seconds it takes from track one to hear long-time Hardy fan Suzanne Vega ask him about his songwriting method. If she were Luke Skywalker, Jack Hardy would be Yoda. Very little is self-serving with Jack Hardy. If it were, he would have been a star twenty times over by now.
The songs are steeped in keen wisdom and ancient mood. Others have Hardy's trademark wry sense of wit, such as I Ought To Know, and have a contemporary feel. The theme runs through a number of important historical items delivered in such fashion as to make anyone want to go hit the history books again straight away. "I ought to know about Oliver Cromwell. I ought to know about the Gnostics and St. Paul. I ought to know what Jesus really said and who the preacher takes to bed. This I ought to know -- but I don't." It touches on all of the wisdom which is lost to the world unless we all make it a point to find out the truth and learn the history. A small sample, but to transcribe more would be a crime. I wouldn't want to ruin the end of the movie. This music must be savored repeatedly. It's the book that you can't put down.
That is Hardy's writing. His delivery is so incredibly frank that it is the perfect vehicle to set the dark and powerful moods of his songs. Many songs, as they have in the past, could easily be mistaken for traditional Celtic ballads. Two such songs even carry Gaelic-language titles: Sile na gCioch (Sheila), and Siar on nDaingean (West Of Dingle). The first is a powerful beat-driven song involving a dress found on the side of a road, and the woman who puts it on. The second is a haunting medieval sounding tale of going beyond An Daingean, which translates to "safe zone." If there were no mythological tales, Hardy would create them himself. Hardy's voice is not smooth, it is not deep, and it is not "pretty." It is genuine, staggering, and somehow from another time and space. Hardy wears the Bard's hat better than anyone alive.
The third point to make on this recording, which makes it even more magical, is that it was recorded live in the studio without any overdubs and with a full band. Joining Hardy are Dave Anthony on drums and boudhran, Kate McLeod on fiddle, Mike Laureanno on bass and vocals, and Tom Duval on electric guitar and vocals. All pitching into each song exactly what it needs. There is never too much nor too little. The album is magnificently "unproduced" by Jack Hardy and Prime CD's Dave Seitz. There is too much to be said about these songs, so it is best left to you to listen. I wish Hardy would publish some poetry in book form, but then again, as he says in the interview -- poetry was always meant to be sung...
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All songs by Jack Hardy
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz