Known in country music by his family name HARDY has become one of the genre’s most in-demand songwriters before his own songs became hits on the radio. His first full-length album A Rock featured a pair of hit singles while his songwriting prowess only became even more legendary as he wrote no less than a dozen hits for other artists including Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country,” FGL’s “Dirt,” and Morgan Wallen’s “More Than My Hometown.” The interesting thing about those songs and his own album was there was always an undercurrent of the modern rock “nu metal” sounds he grew up listening to along with country music. With the mockingbird & THE CROW, his sophomore album release, HARDY has chosen to make an album that’s 1/2 country music, 1/2 modern rock and by doing so, he’s giving fans a glimpse into who he is as and artist and it’s an interesting blend.
HARDY’s greatest asset is his songwriting. There are always interesting songwriting choices, be it rhyme schemes or making an entire songs which is like the answer to his hit single “Give Heaven Some Hell,” where the buddy toasted in that song pleads to his buddies down on earth to “drink one for me” because Heaven doesn’t actually have beer for him to drink. The honesty in the lyrics of “i in country” is refreshing in the sense of this love song that proves that all of our achievements in life aren’t as sweet as they can be if we don’t have someone to share them with.
There are plenty of potential singles for country radio to devour after “wait in the truck,” the impressively honest song about ending a domestic abuse situation with a little “country justice.” The pairing of HARDY with Lainey Wilson on that track was inspired. While “beer” tells of raising trouble and young love, the song “screen” laments all the ways things on screens take your attention away from the natural wonders and beauty of the the people and nature around us. Where we’re present in our lives. Who can’t relate to that? Another one, “happy” is perhaps the best-written song on this record. A philosophical song about the emotions in life which can turn a happy person into a miserable person with HARDY wondering why everyone cannot be more like “happy.” This song, which is a solo-written track by Hardy, is emotive and honest and hopefully, he will release it as a radio single as it’s a “message” that pairs well with “wait in the truck.”
The title track “the mockingbird & THE CROW” serves as the song which splits the album’s country and rock sides with the song itself a literal blend of both (as the title implies as all the rock titles are stylized as capital letters). HARDY’s language has a little more swagger on THE CROW side of the record (as it’s more allowed in the rock n roll side) — but if you don’t want the language, there IS an edited version of the album for sale at Walmart — but it’s fine as he also does a little of the more guttural screams on several of these tracks too. In all honesty, these days, the same fan listening to Morgan Wallen is also listening to Godsmack so it makes sense. HARDY works well in both worlds and in that sense, the current success on the rock radio charts with “JACK” was to be expected. It’s a very well-written song with strong production from Joey Moi, HARDY, Derek Wells and David Garcia. If HARDY’s production collaborators sound familiar it’s because prior to becoming the most-in-demand producer in Nashville, Joey Moi was known for his production in the rock world (nearly every big Nickelback hit amongst them) while Wells is an A-list session player and Garcia most-recently co-producer of Carrie Underwood.
TRUCK BED is one of the tracks on the rock side that feels a little bit more than country in its lyrics but the effort of the production elevates it more into rock while “.30-06” feels grounded in the pop punk of Blink 182 than scream-o or Nu-Metal of Kid Rock or Nickelback. It might be my favorite song on this half of the record for the pure fun it must be in a live setting. “RADIO SONG” features A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon while they lament how formulaic radio programmers like songs to be. It’s a song which has their collective tongues firmly in cheek. The funny part is that the parts of the song where they sing the “radio song” is quite catchy for country and what’s there would definitely be a hit without McKinnon’s laments on it.
The final two songs on this well made album “KILL SH!T TILL I DIE” and “THE REDNECK SONG,” the men in these songs are people I personally know from my hometown. And that’s exactly the point of this record. This is REALLY who HARDY is. He’s simultaneously the A-list country songwriter, the rising country music star and hard rocker at heart. In 2023, he can be all of these things and that’s great for all involved. Sure this record isn’t going to be for everybody but if you’re an artist trying to shoot “birdshot” to hit at everyone listening to it, you’re doomed to fail. Y‘Know, like the Aaron Tippin song says: “You Got To Stand For Something” (or you’ll fall for anything). On the mockingbird & THE CROW, HARDY is raising his hand and standing up to show who he is and what he’s about and I’m here for it.