One of singer/songwriter Dave Hardin's enduring qualities is patience. Even now, as his new CD, "Nine Years Alone," emits a growing buzz in the music biz, he's in no hurry for global conquest. He maintains his modest regimen of solo gigs in and around Clearwater, Florida, and seems content to let his touring sphere grow without the proverbial Big Push.
It's much the same with Hardin's music. He doesn't hurry it, and listeners shouldn't hurry through it. It's music to savor, probing stories of real life, fueled by real emotion. He offers glimpses of everyday events that, through his poetic examination, become profound.
"When you write about things in your life, they don't go away in a day," he says. "They stay around for awhile." Hardin looks to be around music for a while. The 38-year-old waited until he turned 30 to start his music career. In the last decade, he has paid paramount attention to the work, the art, instead of the career, and although he may be getting out of the gate slower than most, patience has served him well.
But try as he might to take it slow, Hardin's development as a songwriter, singer and guitarist has moved rapidly. "Nine Years Alone" is the culmination thus far. Breaking from lone-man-with-a-guitar limitations, Hardin has delivered a disc that factors pop, rock n roll and dabs of country into his sound. With drummer Gary Ashton and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Bettison, they have crafted arrangements that complement the songs but never overwhelm them. Hardin's voice gets inside your bones. It's a tuneful rasp with a hint of twang, like John Prine with more air and less dirt. His live performances of the new CD's title track, an ode of regret and atonement to his young son, have been known to bring people in the crowd to tears.
When Hardin was two, his parents divorced. He and his brother, a year younger, moved in with his paternal grandparents in Warsaw, Kentucky, a small town about 50 miles down the Ohio River from Cincinnati. "A lot of people, when they refer to the way I write, say that I sound a lot older than I am," he says. "I do feel a bit older. It was the people I hung out with when I was a little kid."
Hardin hasn't seen his mother since he was two, and although his dad was around, "he was young, more like a brother than a father figure." When Dave was eight, his grandparents moved him to Portsmouth, Ohio in the Appalachian foothills, and life became even more rural. The brothers spent far more time camping and driving tractors than sitting in front of the TV. Hardin says the small-town environment of his early youth, and its relative Southernness, has deeply influenced his music.
By the time he reached his teens, Dave's dad had remarried. The sons moved in with their father, then living in the suburbs of Cincinnati. It was quite a culture shock for the Hardin brothers. Dave would kill time after school playing an old piano in the garage. He started writing songs virtually from the get-go. But because his favorite music was folk based stuff by Prine, Neil Young, Jackson Brown and James Taylor, the forbidden fruit was his father's guitar, which he wasn't supposed to touch. Ignoring the edict, he picked up the acoustic and carefully began following his muse.
After high school, Hardin joined the service and was stationed in Europe. During his furloughs, he'd travel around the continent with his guitar, playing in bus stations, in bars for free drinks. After mustering out at age 23, Hardin took on the work-a-day life, relegating his music to playing and writing around the house. He married and had a son. At 30, he got up the gumption to do some gigs, mostly at the Iron Horse folk showcase in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
"It was a big step, man," Hardin says in a folksy drawl. "I knew that my stuff was good enough, that I didn't have to be embarrassed, but I had to take that leap of faith."
Always a man to enjoy his share of libation, performing in bars increased Hardin's intake and led to other drugs. Divorced, he had custody of his son and a renewed musical passion. He knew such a lifestyle could not continue, thus quit drugs and alcohol seven years ago.
These days, Dave Hardin is remarried and lives in Palm Harbor, Florida. He's pretty much a homebody, doesn't go out much except for gigs. And he still makes sure to get out in the woods at least once a week.
While he will not "grab for some ring," Hardin is seeing his career unfold nicely. Record labels are sniffing around in the wake of "Nine Years Alone."
The songs keep coming, songs that are both personal and universal. And Hardin's exploring the avenue of penning songs for other artists in Nashville, Branson and elsewhere. He sums it up thusly: "It's not so much a question of Do I wanna write music that people are gonna like, or write music that's comin' from me? I can do both. I try to combine them."
More Reviews of "Nine Years Alone
Dave Hardin is not quite a decade into his musical career, yet he has independently released an album that surpasses most anything you’ll hear from more established singer/songwriters on Rounder and other labels. Over 11 memorable songs, Hardin displays a melodic ingenuity that surpasses the folkie crowd, and a flair for capturing glimpses of real life and turning them into compelling song-stories. The title tune, written as a kind of an apology to his young son, will surely wrench the gut of anyone who put a small child through a divorce. “And sometimes I catch him lookin’ old/ too tired to smile much/ and his hair needs combed.” Although most of Hardin’s lyrics are plainspoken, he has knack for metaphor. “’Cause scrapes are slow to heal/ When you’re sleepin’ on your side/ And there’s a queen size wall between us/ A stronger man could climb,” he sings about a flagging marriage. Hardin delivers these insights in a seductively tuneful rasp with a hint of twang from his younger days in small-town Kentucky and suburban Cincinnati. While some of the songs feature only acoustic guitar backing, most are outfitted with understated arrangements of subtly textured electric six-strings, minimal keyboards, slurry bass, occasional harmonica, and in the case of “There’s You,” some sumptuous background harmonies. Hardin’s local profile has been steadily rising over the last couple of years, but even so, Nine Years Alone is nothing short of a revelation. Eric Snider
John Hardin - a family perspective
I've been a fan of my brother Dave's music since the late 70's, when he used to peck at the keys of the old piano out in our garage. The first time I heard him play a song he wrote (fresh off the USS Eisenhower, on leave Christmas 1980) I knew he had a talent and a gift that's rare, and I've spent many years since listening in awe to literally hundreds of such songs he has since written, a few of which make up his Nine Years Alone CD. What makes his music different from many songwriters' is that his lyrics aren't pretty rhymes with a catchy tune, set up in a 3 minute format, perfect for airplay. They're little pieces of his life just laid out there to the thumping beat of his fingers on his acoustic guitar, and half of them take eight minutes to run their course. His songs come from the heart, people, and you'd better listen hard, because songwriters are few and far between that can grab your soul with a song, and not let it go until the CD ejects. I've also heard the pre-release of his next CD (yet to be titled), and I've just about worn out my copy. He's....that....good! P.S....if you can somehow get your hands on his old "American" CD that he did with Rick Lee, it's well worth whatever it takes to get it into your stereo.
Mark Murley - Higher & Higher Magazine
Hardin's 11-track "Nine Years Alone" is a refreshing effort that about 99 percent of today's "young country" acts would do well to review. Hardin eschews posturing and gimmicks in favor of heartfelt lyrics and clean, accessible arrangements. His acoustic work is especially appealing -- particularly when coupled with his slightly raspy Bryan Adams-esque voice. It's heartening to hear someone *finally* properly synthesizing some of the tasty musical influences handed down by the likes of Stephen Stills, Gordon Lightfoot and John Mellencamp. Although I wish Hardin the success and exposure he obviously so richly deserves, a greedy part of me rejoices that music such as this is *not* largely known. Here's hoping that "The Tree" or "Queen Sized Wall" will never accompany an ad for Pepsi or that "Between Us" or "Nine Years Alone" will end up in Scream IV.
Tony Turner from Virginia
A trip you won't want to miss! Dave's ability as a wordsmith is matched by his profound guitar stylings. His use of unusal open guitar tunings embraces the fluid visual imagery he creates with his lyrics.I have never, never been moved as deeply by any other artist. Dave spoke to my heart. Dave took me on a journey back to my chilhood. He brought me, a sizable man to tears with his tapestry of hard earned life lessons. Dave hammered me continously with songs that reached deep into areas that are seldom touched by song. As someone above said...Dave is the REAL deal. Believe it.