T. Hardy Morris: Hardy and the Hardknocks: Drownin’ on a Mountaintop


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T. Hardy Morris
Hardy and the Hardknocks: Drownin’ on a Mountaintop
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

As if ruggedly Southern guitarist/singer/songwriter T. Hardy Morris didn’t have enough on his plate with his full time gig in Athens’ Dead Confederate and his side work for the looser Diamond Rugs, he now dives into yet another project. Between Confederate’s psychedelic leanings and Rugs’ raucous (some might say sloppy) approach – there was room for the raw, countrified hard rock attack of the appropriately, and humorously, named album Hardy and the Hardknocks.

Morris splits the difference between the Neil Young/Harvest-era country (“Quieter When I Leave Town”) and the more aggressive Crazy Horse ragged rocking (“Cut N’ Dry”). He’s aided enormously by dynamic pedal steel player Matt “Pistol” Stoessel who is as much a part of this quartet’s sound as Morris’ twangy, whiskeyed vocals. The title track’s punk belligerence is tempered by a chorus that unexpectedly changes time signatures, handily balancing Morris’ various influences.

The toughest rocking material seems heavily indebted to Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, another band from the same geographical area that shares many of the gritty country and rock styles Morris displays here. He could easily have delivered a straight ahead red clay roots C&W disc, which he proves on the quieter ballad “Quieter When I Leave Town.” But it’s the dynamic combination that gives this band its driving force and intense, sometimes subdued power.

Each track reverberates with a rebellious, defiant and occasionally even sympathetic Southern aesthetic. Morris’ yearning voice becomes more distinctive as the songs rumble on through the album. By the end of its compact 41 minutes, it’s clear that Morris’ Hardknocks are every bit in synch with each other as are the members of Dead Confederate.

Even if nothing here breaks established territory, Morris is obviously inspired by his rollicking band and a batch of songs that often threaten to, but never quite, go off the rails. It’s that sense of danger that makes you hope Hardy and the Hardknocks isn’t a one-off deal. After a few spins, and maybe some liquid refreshments, you’ll want to hear where he goes next.

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