Matt’s Music Corner: A Rock by Hardy

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Matt Brady, Staff Reporter

Hardy prominently, and drunkenly, navigates the ups and downs of love, loss, heartache, and growing up on his polished debut album A Rock

Rating: 7/10

Mississippi native Michael Wilson Hardy, professionally known as Hardy, released his debut album A Rock to the world on September 4, 2020. Before releasing his debut, he already made a name for himself in the music industry by writing for country duo Florida Georgia Line and country singer Morgan Wallen. The Hardy-written song for Wallen, entitled “Up Down,” was released in 2017 and became a hit, landing number one on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and eventually going platinum. The song did so well that Hardy was eventually signed to Big Loud Records in 2018. From there, he released two EPs, This Ole Boy in 2018 and Where To Find Me in 2019, and a country ‘mixtape’ called HIXTAPE, Vol. 1. The mixtape included guest appearances from country music icons such as Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, and heavy metal guitar powerhouse Zakk Wylde. Which leads us to his debut, A Rock.

The biggest question to ask before going into this album is, “Can I see myself listening to this while I’m driving down the highway on a sunny day?”

Yes.

The other obvious question to ask is, “Will this be a good album?”

Yes. For a country album.

The album opens with the energetic “TRUCK.” Lively guitar leads and an acoustic guitar intertwine as a rock-style drumbeat gives power and life to the intro. Hardy, of all things, sings about a truck, which segues into the explosive chorus. A trap style hi-hat loop plays over the primal thump of the kick drum and the crispy crash of the snare. A subtly echoed pedal steel guitar glides over the melody and nicely accompanies Hardy, as he urges that “you can judge a country boy by his truck.”

The first song sonically and musically sets the tone for the rest of the album, in a good way. Each song after “TRUCK” has some sort of pop-influenced intro, either a shimmering synthesizer lead or a bright acoustic guitar, and they all share the presence of an explosive chorus, which meld together every instrumental part of the song into one sonic burst of color.

The album starts to fall apart though when the main theme starts to take shape. The theme of the album starts to shine after the songs “BOOTS” and “SO CLOSE.” In “BOOTS,” Hardy’s drinking gets in the way of his relationship with his girlfriend and she finally realize that she has to leave him. He uses his boots as a way to show that he stays out all night drinking; He pleads, “I woke up in my boots this morning. Fell asleep in my boots last night” as he’s complimented by a plucked guitar and a somber synthesizer. “SO CLOSE” is Hardy showing his sentimental side; he’s lamenting about a past lover who was amazing. The song starts with a sad and ominous plucked acoustic guitar, accompanied by an electronic drumbeat soaked in effects. Hardy howls “We were so close to forever, like we never said goodbye. We were almost on top of the world like a rocket in the sky, but we crashed hard.”

A Rock is a good country album, but it’s not groundbreaking. There’s nothing critical about the album that puts it in the ranks of At Folsom Prison or Idlewild South. Even though most of the time the lyrics are well formed and thought out, Hardy sounds like he’s too drunk to put feeling into some of his lyrics. But what the album lacks in lyrical substance, it gains in sonic quality. All the songs on the LP are mixed to the quota and the instrumentation is spot on. The drums are loud and crisp, the acoustic guitars are played beautifully, and the electric guitars are gnarly and rough when they need to be. Even though the album holds a torch, in a production sense, to almost every country singer and group out right now, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Country songs have evolved into something new: they focus more on hip-hop and pop style production, either it be the trap style drums that beef up the mix or luminous synthesizers that give a brighter feeling to the song, and they are faster, more hard-hitting, and more explosive. By taking away the sonic perspective, Hardy prominently, and drunkenly, navigates the ups and downs of love, loss, heartache, and growing up on his polished debut album A Rock.