I acquired their recent EP, “A Hard Year,” on the strength of this first impression, and it does not disappoint. The four tunes sound like Wilco, The Jayhawks and Bruce Springsteen got thrown in a blender, then went and jammed with the Old 97’s. It’s loud, twang-less country or it’s pensive, evocative rock, depending on how you want to frame the question.
From the energetic opening moments of “Restless Again” to the last hollered “hang on, baby!” of the title track, this EP oozes sincerity. The theme running through the songs and culminated in “A Hard Year” is passion trying to break through world-weariness, and Hardy has pinned that emotion down (with sleigh bells again! Yes!).
The songs each have their own charms, but it’s not really essential to break them up. The whole 15 minutes sounds like one glorious number, due to the cohesive quality of Hardy’s sound. That’s a sign of great production, as well as great songwriting.
If you like passionate young men hollering their heads off about love, loss and staying alive through all of it, you will fall in love with Jon Hardy. He’s got an infectious swagger that’s only tempered by his world-weariness, and every girl knows that’s impossible not to crush on. —Stephen Carradini