By the sound of Hard Heart Singin', Douglas Fir must have been a smoking little blues-rock combo. They may have existed purely as a bar band, but the Pacific Northwest dives where they honed their sound must have been some pretty trippy little establishments, as evidenced by the brooding, ominous, mildly psychedelic (depending on your definition of the genre) nature of their rock & roll. Everything about the music is coated in a dense, smothering atmosphere (in a good way), as if it is all emanating from a small box rather than the band at the front of the room. The recording displays the same ponderous, cloistered, roadhouse blues edge of the Doors, and they share some of the Band's interest in old-time ambience, evident in the wonderful, rolling Ray Charles piano of "Smokey Joe's," and the perfectly placed soul horn charts of "Moratorium Waltz." Richie Moore's guitar work entirely avoids showy ostentation like Robbie Robertson and occasionally matches the sustained tone of Randy California (although it is not generally as distinctive as either guitarist's talent). The songwriting -- nine originals plus a lulling Moody Blues-like cover of Donovan's "Jersey Thursday" -- is solid throughout. The ballads, which make up an uncommon majority of the album, veer into soft psych territory to a greater degree than the more propulsive songs. They are all very much above average -- particularly for an unknown band -- and often have a transfixing power, especially the engrossing title track and "Tom's Song." The rockers are more realistically situated somewhere between revved-up hard rock and progressive blues, all played with rollicking bar band energy and featuring exceptional playing from the trio and the fabulous pipes of drummer Doug Snider. His phrasing is so grounded in the soul aesthetic that the music fairly buzzes with wrenching emotion. His drumming, too, is wondrous, and his dexterous timekeeping spikes the music with a mystical, jazzy vibe on songs such as "I Didn't Try" and "21 Years," while Tim Doyle's Hammond B3 work is never less than sensational. It may be cliché to make such a statement in regard to a little-known band from the era, but Douglas Fir truly deserved a better shake from the music industry. Hard Heart Singin' is plenty resonant to stand next to the B list, if not the top-level hard rock albums of the era.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart