Bella Hardy’s been looking inward and backward a lot recently, the results of all her deliberations are presented here on ‘Love Songs,’ a simple, gentle yet telling recording which reminds you just how effective she is as a straight down the line folk singer. Reflection often produces music which is fruitful and constructive, even controversial – remember John Martyn’s ‘Grace & Danger’ though somewhat convoluted was a one sided mirror of his divorce from Beverley. No such outbursts here but ‘Love Songs,’ does deal with emotions, happily they’re affirming and celebratory. Hardy effectively drew a line across her career earlier by the release of a very timely collection with ‘Postcards & Pocketbooks,’ a neat summation of her music to that point, then came the book of her complete self written lyrics, allied to changes in her personal circumstances, two dogs and recent parenthood, you can’t blame her pausing for breath.
Lockdown gave her time to declutter and revisit the songs which inspired her in the first place, her sources include her father, old Steeleye Span albums and summer schools in Durham. In essence it’s like having Bella Hardy and a couple of friends (guitarist producer Mike Vass/pianist Tom Gibbs) playing in your lounge. In fact it was recorded quickly over three days in Glasgow, the sessions capturing a fitting intimacy and quiet steel which’s developed over time in her vocal. The songs are familiar but the settings and textures are different as on ‘ My Johnny Was A Shoemaker,’ and ‘Hares On The Mountain,’ both from Steeleye, the former is slowed and given jazz like room to breathe, whilst the latter becomes more mysterious and dreamlike. ‘Greenwood Laddie,’ loses none of its passion but is again a reverie, a longing rather than reality. Yes, as you might expect there are some of her own songs, the most worthwhile to my ears being ‘Silverlight,’ which captures a moment and memory that’s stays in your mind and somehow just won’t let it go.
Yes the tracks are all love songs, they’re songs she loves, they show love in all its moods, turns and faces and are all the better for that. Sadly live shows are for the moment limited to a handful of festivals and she’ll be taking a maternity leave well into the future, but in the meanwhile Bella Hardy has created a worthwhile, uncomplicated album which delivers in so many ways and which displays her undoubted talents. A first class example of making your past work for your present.