Album Review: Bella Hardy – With The Dawn

It’s always an event when a new Bella Hardy album is released, such is the quality of her output nearly a decade on from her debut. The well deserved accolades of recent years including the prestigious Folk Singer of the Year award in 2014 has validated the work that has been put in both from a recording and touring side – and propelled Hardy in to the upper reaches of the national folk circuit.

It’s an adaptability and exploration of different styles that fall within the ‘folk’ boundaries that have made previous releases so accessible. Again on ‘With The Dawn’, a subtle change in direction is evident – Bella moving away from the traditionally inspired material of previous releases to a more autobiographical piece of work, with the majority of these songs written and recorded on the road in what she openly admits has been the busiest year of her life. Don’t get me wrong – this album is still very much steep in the tradition, but with the majority of songs penned against a personal backdrop, there are a lot of different styles thrown in the mix here.

This is very much in evidence on the opening track ‘The Only Thing to Do’. There’s vulnerability in the lyrics, yet the accompaniment consists of brass drones and electro drums – all very interesting. Other highlights include ‘The Darkening of the Day’, almost southern Americana in style with, in the main, banjo accompaniment that wouldn’t be out of place on an Emmylou Harris album – and the gut wrenching ‘Oh! My God! I Miss You’, Bella’s voice achingly carving out the vocal.

This album is fragile, stark in places and quite obvious that the artist is portraying difficulty and potential crossroads in the lyrical content. However, unlike so many albums written with a personal journey at its core, this is not a hard listen. Bella’s voice is exceptional as always, crystal clear and striking. The accompaniment also is first class – whether it be the brass, piano, guitar or rhythmic backing, it sits perfectly underneath the main event, the lyrics.

Invest time in a Bella Hardy album and you won’t be disappointed. This new offering continues that trend.

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Review by Phil Daniels