July 8, 2022
Saved in just three days,’Love songs‘ is Beautiful Hardythe tenth solo album of. He finds her reconnecting with her formative folk roots with seven traditional numbers she learned when she first started singing; these are complemented by four self-penned originals, all of which vaguely echo the title of the album. She is accompanied by the producer mike vas to guitars and Tom Gibbs on piano and clarinet with Hardy on violin.
Summer daylight Winter darkness, a self-written instrumental, opens the collection. This is a minimalist pastoral melody for piano and violin composed for the Backbone of our land project at Sage Gateshead in 2018 which she describes as being of a Nick Cave/Warren Ellis persuasion. This eases you into the first of the traditional numbers, Hares On The Mountain; the spare-finger-picked guitar and its understated, soulful delivery contrast with the vibrant sexual metaphors of the lyrics.
The song was first collected by Cecil Sharp, who is also behind the slightly livelier song Sprig of thyme. This ancient folk ballad uses familiar botanical symbolism to warn of the dangers of taking on false lovers. It was the first song Sharp collected for his records, from gardener John England, in 1903, but the version here comes from Joseph Taylor singing to Percy Granger some five years later.
Sandwiched between and learned from the unaccompanied Steeleye Span version, a nimble circle finger-picked guitar pattern dancing to the melody is My Johnny was a cobbler. It is the first of the marine songs on the album, the other being a haunting a capella reading of Lowlands, in which a woman recounts dreaming of her drowned lover, learned from her father Joe Hardy and Billy Jolly of Orkney. Two of the remaining traditional folk songs date back to his teenage years; the love song Greenwood Boywith the guitar pulse of Vass, in which the singer declares that she will be with the lover of her dreams despite the contempt of her parents, learned the song from Peter Kennedy Folk songs from Great Britain and Ireland. On the other, closer to the album Loving Hannah, the spurned narrator, laments her fickle true love while ignoring her in church, her wandering eye fixed on another. Hardy learned it at a Folkworks summer school in Durham in the late 90s.
The remaining selection of the barrel, still from the Sharp collection, with clarinet, is awake awake, an evergreen of the nocturnal visit genus. The aria and the first verse are taken from the “demi-souvenir” song by Elizabeth LaPrelle (from Anna and Elizabeth). The rest of the lyrics are from Maggie Boyle’s vocals of silver dagger. This variant eschews murder in favor of an admonition from her sleeping lover, though she still takes her mother’s warning about male infidelity to heart.
The first of the three remaining originals is the solo accompanied by piano and clarinet The Navigator’s Bridea ballad that delves into the story of the 500 Irish navvies who arrived at Edale in the Peak District in October 1888 to begin work on the 3km Cowburn railway tunnel and its deep ventilation shaft, the song sung with the voice of a shepherd’s daughter who ignores the village snobs and self-esteemed hypocrites”the fetid degenerates“and decides to marry his new sweetheart, only for the song to end with a meltdown and”men buried below”.
It is followed by another historic note in the form of the circular music box guitar pattern of I think of youwritten in 2019 for the Doncaster Project 1914-1918, War & Peace, a five-year program exploring the city’s connection to World War I that also included songs by Findlay Napier and Greg Russell. Again sung in first person with reminiscences of the narrator watching his man depart on the train for the front, the title comes from a silk postcard in the museum’s collection.
The remaining song, the circular tinkling guitar notes and the retro tinges of the 30s sung with levity silver lightis co-written with Joel Cadbury, a simple love song most likely born out of the pandemic, for those apart she sings”where you are i will be”.
A singular talent and distinctive voice in contemporary folk, his last release was Postcards and Paperbacks: The Best of Bella Hardy; this terrific album provides the perfect base to start Volume II.
Love Songs is out July 8 via Noe Records. Pre-order it here.
Her debut single, Sprig of Thyme, is out today: