Words by Tim Cumming
Hardy’s fifth album was recorded with her touring band The Midnight Watch: Blazin’ Fiddles guitarist Anna Massie; Braebach bassist James Lindsay; and keyboardist/accordionist Angus Leyton of The Halton Quartet. It features new versions of traditional material, often retitled and augmented with verses displaying Hardy’s assured songwriter’s touch, alongside a handful of self-penned tunes. These include the wonderful ‘Three Pieces of My Heart’ – a tune that would fit perfectly into country singer Willie Nelson’s repertoire of broken-hearted love songs. The original material on this album has the depth, strength and melodies to stand tall alongside her take on Phoebe Smith’s ‘Yellow Handkerchief’ or ‘The Outlandish Knight’ and ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsies’ (here titled ‘The Seventh Girl’ and ‘Good Man’s Wife’ respectively).
Acoustic guitar and piano predominate; the village-hall upright piano sound on the closing shanty of ‘One More Day’ is haunting and ethereal over a spare guitar backing. There’s plenty of space in the arrangements that allows the voice to lead with a clarity and tenderness of feeling. There are touches of the 70s West Coast singer-songwriter tradition of Laurel Canyon – perhaps in the predominance of piano arrangements – and Bella Hardy has a natural ability to fashion catchy pop hooks in the forge of big, doom-laden folk songs.
TRACK TO TRY: Yellow Handkerchief
(On Noe Records)