T. Hardy Morris
Hardy & The Hardknocks: Drownin’ On A Mountaintop
T. Hardy Morris’s new album Hardy & The Hardknocks: Drownin On A Mountaintop is out now Dangerbird Records. The Athens, GA based songwriter, who also also lends his talent to Diamond Rugs and Dead Confederate, spent this past winter writing and recording the new album, the follow up to his critically acclaimed 2013 solo debut Audition Tapes.
“If Audition Tapes was a high and lonesome mellow-roast with musical touchstones like Harvest era Neil and driving down a windy backroad alone,” writes Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers, “Drownin On A Mountaintop blasts out of the garage like some high-octane muscle car full of friends, blasting Mott The Hoople on the way to the last-call dive bar.”
You can hear that shift in gears in the single “Painted On Attitude”, A strangely complementary mix of rollicking lo-fi southern rock pedal steel twang, run through a grunge punk buzzsaw with Morris’ snarling yet tuneful vocals serving as the sharp end of the blade. The album as a whole is a melding of these competing forces, as Hardy toes the line between his southern rock heritage and his coming of age during the heyday of alt-rock’s slacker generation. The result is a record that would be just as much at home in a Macon, GA dive bar as it would a parents-out-of-town ‘90s house party in Olympia, WA.
"Like a lot of people, me and my friends growing up did a lot of crazy stuff and somehow learned how to play rock and roll in the process,” says Morris. “There was an old trailer behind my friends house and we ran an extension cord out to it and slowly bought pawn shop guitars and amps and got our hands on stuff people didn't want anymore. We had drums and we built a guitar amp out of an old bass head and 2 car speakers. The speakers blew out immediately and it had this crazy fuzz tone. We called it The Fogerty cause it sounded like CCR."
The rebel spirit bursting through the speakers on this album is as much about drawing from a youthful past as it is driven by the future. A lot has changed in Morris’ life since the release of Audition Tapes in 2013, which at the time was lauded by Stereogum for its “calming beauty,” and praised by Paste for its “wildly passionate” songwriting. Of all recent life events however, none is likely more significant than the birth of his daughter. Much of ...Drownin On A Mountaintop was written and recorded in the run up to her birth, adding an element of urgency that pulses throughout the record.
"I wanted this record to be a kind of end-of-an-era for me,” Morris relates. “It was a very deliberate thing to record these songs before the birth of my first child. I was in a headspace and I wanted to capture it before I became a dear old dad"
On a less psychoanalytical level, ...Drownin On A Mountaintop’s ultimate sound also stems from Morris’ preoccupation with two of his former songs in particular. “Share The Needle”, from Audition Tapes, and “Country Mile”, a song he’d contributed to Diamond Rugs’ self-titled debut. Each of those tracks featured a distinct push-and-pull dynamic that ended up bridging the gap between the quieter country leanings of Audition Tapes, and the more aggressive grunge of Morris’ other band Dead Confederate.
"There is something about that push / pull that really works for my songwriting and feels right to me,” says Morris of the new direction. “People are like, ‘that's a crazy song’, but I didn't think of it that way. I decided to really embrace it on this record and I love the result. It's my writing, but the playing is what makes it truly work. I knew I wanted Nick Sterchi (from Dead Confederate) to play drums on this one because he plays exactly how me and my friends tried to play when we were kids: heavy and loud. Vaughan Lamb has a really unique and noodle-y kind of hippy-punk bass style that I love.
And it goes without saying that the album couldn't even exist without the pedal steel. Pistol (Matt Stoessel) is an incredible player and we both grew up with an affinity for a lot of the same southern rock. He knows just where to play in the songs and really bring them to life.”
…Drownin On A Mountaintop was recorded at Chase Park studios in Athens with Adam Landry & Justin Collins (Cosmic Thug Production). “We had done some demos and a lot of talking before we recorded,” Morris recounts. “We knew what we were going for and we got it. Landry & Collins helped me dial in the dynamic on a lot of the songs. They can come off the rails if the right thing doesn't happen at the right time. It was a lot of fun to make.”