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HARDY has been a big presence in country music over the last five years or so, despite few releases as an artist. He has song writing credits on several hit songs, such as Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Simple’ and Morgan Wallen’s ‘Up Down’. In the last year or so, he’s established an ever-growing following, particularly since the release of his ‘Hixtape Volume 1’ project that features the smash hit, ‘One Beer’ (with Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson).

Today, HARDY launches his first major label album, ‘A ROCK’, featuring twelve songs, all co-written by HARDY. Here we have an artist unafraid to embrace his redneck country roots, whilst maintaining a lot of core depth and substance.

From the very beginning, the material shies away from the over-use of track-beats and sampling used by HARDY’s peers. Track 1, ‘TRUCK’, is a catchy and heavy song about defining country boys by their 4×4. Yes, it’s a tried and tested topic, but HARDY gives a different take on it in his signature style.

I absolutely loved the production and instrumentation on this record, and on ‘TRUCK’ we can really hear a country-rock-rap style that has defined HARDY as ‘one-to-watch’. Listeners may also welcome the heavy use of guitars and banjos throughout the record, such as on ‘HATE YOUR HOMETOWN’. This song really makes use of the heavy electrics; a great blend of traditional country influences and gritty southern rock.

‘Hometown’ is lyrically sublime, and tells a tale of someone wanting their partner to ‘hate your hometown’:

“I hope it looks like a ghost town
And you feel like a stranger
Then you turn your car round get p*ssed off and leave
I hope you hate your home town
And come back to me”

It can’t be denied that HARDY has a rare and distinct vocal. On ‘BROKE BOY’, he showcases his versatility, unveiling his rapping ability. It’s hard to not find a soft spot for that raspy tone, and it suits the cross-genre sound of the record so well.

Another song that pushes the genre boundaries is ‘BOOTS’, one of my high points from this excellent record. Written by Michael Hardy, David Garcia, Hillary Lindsey, this song feels fresh and modern. The delivery here is genuinely sorrowful, conveying a depth of emotion that you may not expect to hear from the title.

“I woke up in my boots this morning
Fell asleep in my boots last night
Had a feeling that I’d run out of warnings
Girl, I couldn’t have been more right”

Though the record does feature some sombre moments, it doesn’t shy away from more fun offerings, such as ‘UNAPOLOGETICALLY COUNTRY AS HELL’. HARDY has openly exposed his Redneck image (see his Top 40 2019 single, ‘Rednecker’) and here, he takes great pride in his identity.

There are also moments on the collection where HARDY shows off his talents as a collaborator. ‘SO CLOSE’ was co-written with Mark Holman and Hillary Lindsey, and tells the story of two individuals’ heart-wrenching breaking up. Here we get to listen the harmonies of female vocalist Ashland Craft, and they sound remarkable. This one wouldn’t be out of place on country radio.

Another collaboration on the album, which has already received extensively radio play, is ‘ONE BEER’. This song really showcases the best of modern country music and features both classic country guitars and modern drum sounds. Female vocals provided by Lauren Alaina and male backing vocals provided by Devin Dawson give this song a big, full sound. Some of the best lyrical finesse of the year.

“One beer turns into a lit cigarette burning into a two beer buzz
Three beers turn into five and six and a love drunk kiss in the back of that truck
Just like that everything rearranges, live changes out of the blue

Great songwriting is prevalent throughout the record, and on the closer, ‘A ROCK’ we hear Hardy look back on some of the innocent moments of childhood, and how it feels to move into adolescence and adulthood. It is a sentimental number, and its authenticity makes it a fitting end to the record.

HARDY’s debut is a wonderful assortment of genres that peels back the layers of who he is as a solo artist. Both ‘BOOTS’ and ‘ONE BEER’ may be the stand-out gems here, but the entire record is very worthy of anyone’s time.

Lauren Wyatt

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