Holy $#!+ HARDY dropped bombshell announcement after bombshell announcement and immediately sent the country music world into a frenzy. HARDY is the reigning ACM Songwriter of the Year, has penned 12 #1’s to date, and has two #1 hits of his own. HARDY is one of the most revered writers in the business and we’re witnessing his ascension to superstardom right before our eyes. Now he hits us with an absolutely wild day and a half of updates which will only send his star higher. Where do I even begin?
Let’s start where HARDY did, with the great news that he and his team were all doing better after a horrific bus crash just one week prior. After struggling with whether he should even make these announcements, the crew’s improvements and their encouragement led HARDY to unleash an absolute onslaught of news and promptly fried my brain.
HARDY released 3 new tracks late Sunday night which we will dive into shortly, but it opened a much larger can of worms when he did. Obviously as soon as the clock struck midnight, I went to play the new tracks and much to my surprise, there were not 3 new singles. Instead, I found an entire album with a 17 song track list! At the bottom of that track list, I found the release date January, 20th 2023. Talk about SHOOK! Now I have to attempt to regain my composure, listen to these songs and then I can process that there is a whole album still to come.
“here lies country music” – It had a damn good run he says but at least Jack Daniels and Steel Guitar are in the front row. In classic HARDY form, he paints this incredible story about the death of country music and honoring his old friend, while also working in some cheeky lines that I won’t spoil here. He finds a way to work in references to country classics at the same time three chords and the truth gets buried six feet underground. The premise of the song is great but gets even better as the theme of the album is revealed.
“the mockingbird & THE CROW” – The title track highlights that HARDY is just like us; he comes from a small town, he fished and mowed lawns all summer, and eventually found himself a guitar. He starts singing the songs he’s heard and then gets a contract and begins writing songs about everything he knows. They sound like the songs he grew up on, the songs we all did. He’s just a mockingbird recreating what he knew and loved but now he has a microphone.
There’s an instrumental break halfway through and something feels different. There’s a different tone in his voice and the music suddenly sounds darker. There’s an element that takes me back to Breaking Benjamin or Puddle of Mudd and I start feeling incredibly nostalgic. He’s being told what to do and what to wear; the whole mood has changed. They are telling him what to say and what to write and he simply can’t take it anymore.
“The way I sing may not be pretty, may not be music to your ears.
When these wings roll through your city, my last name is all you hear”.
If you’ve seen HARDY live you know what he’s talking about. The HARDY chants run wild as his fan base is about as rabid as it gets. He’s done being a mockingbird that does as he’s told. It’s time to fly his own path. It’s time you meet THE CROW!
“You’re too loud, you’re too proud, it won’t work!” They tell him.
“Well tell that to 25,000 rednecks with my DUMB FACE on their T-Shirt!”
I’m immediately taken back to Country Concert ’22. “SOLD OUT” starts, the guitars blaring, the beat drops, HARDY comes on stage, beer showers flying everywhere and HARDY chants are ringing in your ears from the record 28,000+ in attendance. Insert me shotgunning a beer, from a Hixtape ChugBud, wearing a shirt with HARDY’s “dumb face” on it. If you say he didn’t write that line about me personally, you’re just plain wrong.
“TRUCK BED” – Wait a second, that’s a hip hop beat. Are those country lyrics? What is this!
“She said don’t come home if you go to the bar, I said okay baby, then got drunk out in the yard”
“2am I knocked up on the door, she never unlocked it, guess I don’t live here no more”
I don’t know what this song is but I love it and, as only HARDY can, I’m mesmerized by these lyrics. The idea itself of waking up on the wrong side of the (truck) bed is phenomenal. Can we talk about this imagery though: empty bag of corn to rest his head, camo jacket as a blanket, then passed out like he was dead. I’m listening to it and realize that it’s the hip-hop sequel to “Boots”. He hits us with a line about having to be at work at 9 and this birds about to catch his 45. And I shit you not, he actually calls back his own song that “if this really is goodbye, at least I took my boots off this time”. This man is something else!
The three songs on their own would have been a massive announcement but HARDY was just getting started. I found the album release date, the entire track list, and I was in heaven. For quite a while myself, and many others, had speculated this next album might be a borderline rock album. HARDY has shown flashes of rock influence, he added a cover of Puddle of Mudd’s “Blurry” and newly released singles “SOLD OUT” and “JACK” certainly lean heavy on the rock side. Should be Song of the Year candidate, “wait in the truck” with Lainey Wilson, has been rewriting history for what a song can do out of the gate and the video makes you want a feature length film. Then I noticed something else.
I started to look at the order of the songs and a change from HARDY’s typical ALL CAPS song titles.
There were two blatantly country songs out and they were both all lower case and earlier on the album. The heavy rock songs that were released were back to back on the album in ALL CAPS and they were followed by the hip-hop sounding “TRUCK BED”. I remembered the hard pivot on the title track going from very country to angsty 2000’s Alt Rock and IT CLICKED!
The first half is country: ‘the mockingbird’
Title track pivots and is country ‘ & ‘ ROCK
The second half is Rock*: ‘THE CROW’
This album isn’t country. This album isn’t ROCK.
THIS. is. HARDY!
I was absolutely GEEKING OUT! Was this seriously a multi-genre concept album with a pivot title track in the middle! Did he kill country music in a song write before switching the album to ROCK? Early Monday morning HARDY released a video describing exactly what I had uncovered and how it all came to be. He thought the album was done and it already had both elements. He had long had the concept of the mockingbird and the crow imagery but he wrote the song and it perfectly tied these two parts of the album together as he morphed from the mockingbird to THE CROW. I continued losing my mind and telling everyone who would listen.
HARDY decided that wasn’t enough though. On the heels of the SOLD OUT and aptly named “WALL TO WALL TOUR”, HARDY announced Tuesday that he will be taking Jameson Rodgers and Blame My Youth on ‘the mockingbird & THE CROW tour’. Since my brain was already on overload, they also decided to go ahead and start the tour in my hometown of Indianapolis on February 16th. Let’s F*n Go! So get your tickets, sell this tour out, and go see him live if you haven’t already so you can be as amped as I am, it’s going to be ROWDY! Check out the track list and sit on pins and needles like me waiting for January 20th!
HARDY! HARDY! HARDY!