by Roy Francis Kasten
Jack Hardy was raised in Indiana and wound up in New York City, where he undertook an all-but-single-handed reinvigoration of the '70s folk scene. He mentored singer-songwriters, young and old, and offered his apartment as a workshop for song. Those workshops still continue: their focus is not on the creation of Nashville confections, nor on polishing into professionalism, but rather, as he explained to me a few weeks ago, on the discovery of what each song needs to grow.
It's frustatingly appropriate I should lose my tape recording of our conversation, during which Hardy explained the Celtic influence on his work--he has learned Gaelic and spent years studying Irish verse--the development of the songwriter workshops, his vision of a good song, his passion for writing, always writing, and his reluctance to perform in public. Hardy may be well-known by other songwriters, but he values the freedome of his anonymity. He says he lives sparely, has never owned a computer or television, buys his clothes in thrift stores, and after 30 years, still writes to pay his bills.
He has penned too many extraordinary, mythic songs to discuss here. He is like a more literate, Celtic Townes Van Zandt, grave in his tone and generous in his ideals, as rooted in the present soil and sky of Ireland and America, as he is fascinated by the legends of the past. His triumph is a slyly simple song called "The Zephyr," with its chorus as timeless as only folk or country songs can be: "Take it slow, take it easy, take it any way you can / Take it all, take it freely, take it like a man / Take it down a lonesome highway, down a lonesome railroad track / Take it any way you want to, but never take it back." Come see Jack Hardy at the Focal Point. You may never get another chance. (RK)