MUSIC AND POETRY FROM A TRUE BARD
Larry L. Looney | Austin, Texas USA | 05/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Released in 1996, THE PASSING is one of Jack Hardy's finest, most complete albums -- every song here is a gem, brought from conception to final polish by a master songwriter with the sensibilities of a true Celtic bard. Hardy's craft possesses him -- I can't imagine anyone with these talents doing anything but putting them to use as he has for so many years, giving his listeners album after album, show after show, of some of the most memorable, literate songs being produced. I could go on and on about each track, but I'll limit myself to just a few highlights.'The 20th century' uses the metaphor of a train (one that actually existed) to look back at what America was intended to be and what it has become -- the dreams that have come true, being pounded out like hot iron on an anvil, as well as the ones that have yet to be realized: 'Two thousand years of the golden rule, and we still keep illegal aliens out of school -- someone's gotta wash dishes and clean toilets too, someone's gotta play footballand someone's gotta sing the blues', Hardy sings, holding up a mirror to those who praise our society for the 'equalities' that still don't exist. 'This little experiment of ours is pretty damn new and shaky so far -- we have the freedom to hang out in bars, buy shiny new guns and shiny new cars', and when the 'have-nots' dare to complain, those in power might wonder 'How we gonna keep 'em down on Broadway? Let's try religion, sports, and a lottery a day...' as a way to keep the masses distracted and firmly in place at the bottom of the pile.'If I ever pass this way again' is one of the most poignant, beautiful depictions of the immigrant experience I've ever heard, by one who has come to a new land of 'opportunity' looking back on his homeland, to a life hard but beloved.'Dachau' is simply stunning -- Hardy tells of a visit to the notorious Nazi death camp, relating so eloquently to the listener his thoughts about the horrors that occurred there, his feelings of detachment and helplessness in the face of such historic evil. Much as he would like to experience the pain and suffering of those who were tortured and murdered here, Hardy knows that he can only guess: 'I wanted to feel it, that Final Solution, I want it to touch me, to take me inside. I want it to hold me, I want it to scold me, make me part of the blame, why so many died'. But, instead of being able to share the horror, he knows that he is indeed not a prisoner, only a 'tourist' -- and that even the buildings there have crumbled, leaving only a shadow of their horror: 'But only foundations are left of the stone wall, almost at closing, with time running out. I walked in the cold rain, clutching a cold stone -- the gate was still open for us to walk out'. I haven't read such a compelling poetic witness to the horrors of these camps and the sensibilities they bruised (both in the persecuted Jews and in the German people who were horrified at their murderous use) since Paul Celan's incredible poem 'Deathfugue'.The album concludes with one of (I think) Hardy's masterpieces, 'Morgan's dance'. Everything about this song -- the melody, the driving force of the hand drum, the story and images, the amazing internal rhymes -- combines to bring the Arthurean story to life again (it's one of Jack's favorite themes), this time focusing on our conception of the beliefs of Morgan, Arthur's sister -- and the misunderstandings that still exist concerning the 'old religion'. Hardy's evocation of the spirit -- as well as the time and place -- of that era is breathtaking. When I listen to this album, I find myself listening to this last song over and over again -- I can't get enough of it.Every album Jack Hardy has ever recorded (and there are a lot -- check out the two 5-disc sets of his complete works) has contained some ground-breaking, memorable work. THE PASSING stands out even among a catalogue full of great writing -- if you're new to the music of Jack Hardy, this is a great place to start."