Sneak Preview: A Tribute to Jack Hardy (out 3/11)
The late Jack Hardy, an influential folk singer-songwriter and founder of the Fast Folk record label and magazine, was a firm believer in the power of song as a form of communication. For him, folk music was more about the lyrics and the melody than the singer. “As a songwriter,” he said, “I’m only as good as my latest song.”
In honor of the fifth anniversary of his death, Smithsonian Folkways presents A Tribute to Jack Hardy (out 3/11) featuring 26 previously unreleased recordings of Hardy’s songs by an illustrious group of performers, all of whom cited Hardy as a key influence and a personal friend. The album will be available in on-demand double CD and digital downloads via folkways.si.edu as well as all major digital outlets.
Performers include album producers Mark Dann and David Massengill, joined by contemporary folk standouts Nanci Griffith, Suzanne Vega, Jonathan Byrd, Red Molly, Lucy Kaplansky, and Brian Rose. Jack Hardy himself, known as a welcoming host for weekly songwriting workshops, is also included via two unreleased tracks recorded shortly before he died.
For the album, Dann and Massengill compiled more than 100 pages of liner notes that include Hardy’s “Songwriter’s Manifesto,” complete lyrics, photos, and personal tributes, anecdotes, and essays from the participating singer-songwriters.
More about Jack Hardy:
Picking up the guitar as a teenager in the 1960s in Colorado, Hardy’s early repertoire consisted of The Everly Brothers, The Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles. But much of his writing style can be attributed to his love for literature. The poetry of William Butler Yeats especially influenced Hardy’s songwriting style, which is characterized by vivid imagery and literary techniques.
After moving to Greenwich Village, New York City, to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter, Hardy created the Songwriters Exchange, where musicians shared a new song weekly. The group, and resulting concert series, attracted established performers, such as Griffith, Vega, John Gorka, and Shawn Colvin, as well as aspiring amateurs. Known both for the constructive songwriting advice and the enormous bowls of pasta he would serve up, Hardy became a sounding board, mentor, and friend for a generation of NYC folksingers. In 1982, Hardy, with the help of Dave Van Ronk and others, founded Fast Folk, a record label and music magazine that featured hundreds of singer-songwriters on 98 albums released during a 15-year run (now part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection).
While he never reached the commercial success that some of his weekly guests achieved, Hardy was a prolific songwriter and released 21 albums in nearly 30 years before he died of lung cancer in 2011 at age 63.
“Everything about writing is a process. It is a process that one must immerse oneself in to be good,” said Hardy. “We have to stop getting hung up on the song itself, as an end in itself, and pursue the process.”
In the liner notes, the performers repeatedly cite his valuable perspective on songwriting and give generous thanks for his passion, bravery, stubbornness, determination, and encouragement.
In addition to this tribute, the 36-track compilation Fast Folk: A Community of Singers and Songwriters is available from Smithsonian Folkways and includes songs by John Gorka, Suzanne Vega, Dave Van Ronk, and many more.
A Tribute to Jack Hardy track list:
101 Tree of Rhyme
102 Saint Clare
103 Little Dove
104 Sojourner Truth (Ain't I a Woman?)
106 You Only Leave Your Heart Once
108 The Last of the O’Neills
109 Rye Grass
110 Houston Street
111 Potter’s Field
113 Gossamer Thread
203 Dublin Farewell
Anthony da Costa
204 The Tailor
205 Down Where the Rabbits Run
206 I Ought to Know
207 Porto Limon
208 White Shoes
Andrew Rose Gregory
209 Go Tell the Savior
210 The Inner Man
211 Before You Sing (Instrumental Version)
212 Fare Thee Well