Jack Hardy

The Nameless One

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On his second album, The Mirror Of My Madness, Jack Hardy emerged as one of the more accomplished Dylan-influenced singer-songwriters of the 1970s, one who often seemed capable of matching his predecessor line for line, while taking for his own the folk-rock sound Dylan pioneered from 1965 to 1968. But that album led off with "The Tailor," which sounded like it could have been a traditional folk song of several hundred years' vintage, and it is that song which proved the harbinger of his third album, The Nameless One. Always delighting in language as much for its sound as its meaning, Hardy invested his verses with alliteration and repetition in songs steeped in Anglo-Irish tradition as he and a backup group including two of his brothers and the three Roche sisters sang in harmony and played on mostly acoustic instruments. Elves, shepherds, and fairies peopled his lyrics, along with references to the Bible, Homer, and, especially, William Butler Yeats.

On the title track, Hardy even helpfully provided a footnote to explain that "the leanhaun shee" was Yeats's term for "the gaelic muse." On that song and others, the sway of Dylan's overstuffed language in songs like "Desolation Row" was still apparent, yet you felt that, unlike Dylan, Hardy, if asked, would be able to account for the origin and intent of every image. But if a degree in English Lit. seemed required for a full understanding of Hardy's lyrics, his songs nevertheless had a powerful impact, even if you didn't get all the references. His precise, bitten-off phrasing, slightly wheezy tenor, and delicate finger-picking all helped make his performances compelling, and he was wise to change the pace with "May Day" and "Blackberry Pie," songs that sounded like they could have been played for dancing at a village fete in the Middle Ages.