Release Date: 18th October 2019
Label: Noe Records
Formats: 2CD, DL, lovely lyric book package
Former Folk Singer Of The Year gets the retrospective treatment.
She might not seem old enough to be having a career retrospective (they used to call them ‘The Best Of…’) but as she’s been fiddle-singing in public since she was thirteen, you can maybe allow some slack to Bella Hardy.
Postcards And Pocketbooks collects remastered versions of 22 songs from her catalogue along with 2019 takes on Full Moon Over Amsterdam, Three Black Feathers and Time Wanders On and a couple of previously unrecorded pieces. There’s also a lovely lyric book version that provides an added touch of class and quality to a collection that touches on the minimal aspects of her debut album to the bold electric instruments that accompanied the force on the more recent Hey Sammy. The ballads of Derbyshire contrast with the poetry and songs recorded in China for Eternal Spring. And that’s before any of her other collaborations on the likes of Songs For The Voiceless, Elizabethan Sessions and the Carthy, Farrell, Hardy Young quartet come into play. A missed opportunity for a bonus disc maybe?
So essentially, we have a fairly broad representation that does the job of summarizing her ten plus years as a solo artist or possibly acting as the introduction to a catalogue that is a box of treasures that holds many gems. It’s a difficult pick, but the organic aura of the songs from the Derbyshire folklore and legends on The Dark Peak & The White and the concept of chronicling a year of her life on With The Dawn are personal highlights and perfect pathways into planet Hardy.
Of the two songs which are new, Sheep Crook & Black Dog’s unaccompanied arrangement and tale of love gone wrong has a ‘been there, done that’ empathy and intimate openness in contrast to the easy vibe on Tequila Moon that to some ears will evoke shades of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.
The broadsheets music writers and mainstream folk press have tagged her as seductive and sophisticated as well as recognizing her folk art-pop and no-nonsense interpretations of traditional material, while some have simply spewed lists of workable adjectives. This set is simply a timely reminder of the roads she’s travelled in a very varied career since 2007’s Night Visiting that paved the way for a startling impact on the folk scene. Even though so much has been crammed into such a short space of time, the bonus of looking back is of the thought of looking forward to what comes next.
Listen to The Herring Girl (Best Original Song in the 2012 Folk Awards) here: