Album Review – HARDY's “the mockingbird & THE CROW” – Saving Country Music

49 Comments
Whatever we’re calling this post Bro-Country era in popular country music, the bespectacled Hardy has a heavy hand in it, both as a primary song contributor to Morgan Wallen and others, as well as a performing career that continues to swell in popularity. Though you tend to think of Hardy as a songwriter first (if you think about him at all), that notion is starting to change, and it very well may switch entirely after the release of his new album the mockingbird & THE CROW.

The album is part slowly-evolving and self-aware Bro-Country that still relies too much on buzzwords and lists, and part post-grunge pseudo metal butt rock with mostly Bro-Country lyricism. That all may sound like a spectacular shit sandwich to you, and you’ll do just fine with the soup and salad. But this album is very far from ordinary fare for popular country, or even Bro-Country. So even if it doesn’t suit your tastes, it’s still something worth remarking on.

Hardy is very reliable for standard issue male-sung radio country songs, including on this album with tracks like “beer” and “red,” and later the more rockified “TRUCK BED” and “THE REDNECK SONG.” No, the caps lock is not on the fritz, that’s Hardy’s punctuation to distinguish the country and rock songs. A split personality is also evidenced in the songs irrespective of genre, with about half presented for commercial purposes, and the other half to flex Hardy’s creative muscles.

Hardy toys with perspective with some interesting results, like in the song “drink one for me” sung from the point of view of someone in heaven, and “happy,” which is told from the perspective of the emotion itself. He gets even more complex in “here lies country music” (read review), and the surprising and successful radio single “wait in the truck” (read review)—the story aspect of the latter offering an unexpected turn for something on the radio, even if the story is somewhat implausible.

Speaking of country radio, it is a recurring character on this album, with Hardy making reference to its rules and stereotypes on numerous occasions, including in the title track, the song “SELL OUT,” and most distinctly in “RADIO SONG”…
“There’s gotta be a truck, there’s gotta be a girl.
She’s gotta be hot, and you gotta rhyme that shit with ‘world’
And it can’t be too fake, but it can’t be too real
Gotta make them tap their feet, or I’ll lose my record deal.”
…then Hardy sings some cliché country radio stuff before Jeremy McKinnon of the band A Day to Remember starts screaming a four-letter word in a rather masturbatory moment. Hardy really wants you to give him credit for being edgy and the antithesis of the mainstream. In “SELL OUT,” Hardy hyper-extends his arm to pat himself on the back for having never done so, which is definitely open for interpretation.
There is a big difference between being clever and being quality though. There is a difference between acknowledging the cliché’s of country radio in an album cut while still writing crap to appeal to it like Hardy has done time and time again. This is also different than completely circumventing the country radio system like Cody Jinks, Tyler Childers, and Zach Bryan have done. That’s what takes real intestinal fortitude and rabid creativity, not trying to have it both ways.

As for the rock elements in the second half of this album, you can’t really criticize Hardy for not being country here because he’s up front about what’s happening in this dual genre project. It’s an element of his creativity. What you can criticize is that his style of rock is very much in the Nickelback vein, facilitated by the fact that Joey Moi who produced all of those old Nickelback records (as well as Florida Georgia Line and Morgan Wallen) is one of the producers here as well.

In many respects, this album completes the Nickelback/Bro-Country circle at a time when the latest Nickelback record has been slotted as country in some streaming services, and Brantley Gilbert will be heading out with Nickelback on tour shortly. All that’s left to happen is for Nickelback to release a straight up Bro-Country album. So when you hear “rock” or “metal” associated with the the mockingbird & THE CROW, understand it’s metal like Nickelback is metal.

You have to give credit to Hardy though, because some of the rock tracks are kind of fun, just like if you listen to a Nickelback record, it probably has some energetic and entertaining moments too. There’s a little immaturity about what Hardy is doing here, irrespective of the self-awareness. He talks about hunting and guns like a 15-year-old does, not like someone with reverence for firearms and the outdoors.

But this is a 50/50 album of country and rock, and probably a 50/50 album of good and bad distributed equally across the country and rock tracks. Yet when regarding it by mainstream measures, it is probably slightly better and more creative than par. Give Hardy credit for going outside of the box. Just make sure to give him credit for staying in it too. Just because Hardy admits he’s a “mockingbird” of a songwriter stringing together clichés with his radio stuff doesn’t somehow let him off the hook when he does it.

the mockingbird & THE CROW is an important album, because when you listen, you’re not just listening to Hardy. You’re listening to the half a dozen other artists that he writes for, and you’re listening to an influential character that others in the industry attempt to emulate. The future of mainstream country music is a new neotraditionalist movement mainly comprised of women, and folks like Hardy, whatever you want to call them.

5.5/10

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Ricky Patrick
January 24, 2023 @ 8:28 am
I still can’t figure out if Hardy is just trolling us or what. Its definitely not for me but obviously someone is buying it.
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Sir Adam the Great
January 24, 2023 @ 11:05 am
The random CAPITALIZATION reminds me of the mocking SpongeBob meme, so there’s a chance you’re right.
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Ian
January 24, 2023 @ 3:57 pm
Reminds me of conspiracy theorists and fringe political candidates. Full page of text with random all caps, words like “narrative” figuring heavily into the great wall of text!
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Massatuckey
January 24, 2023 @ 8:43 am
If Nickelback and Brantley Gilbert had a musical love child it would be this album, was my immediate thought after listening, after reading this review I know why. Jompson Brothers albums are what a real countryfied rock album can and should sound like IMHO, wish Hardy had gone that route. But yes got to give credit where credit is due, it definitely is different.
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Corey
January 24, 2023 @ 11:35 am
A kick ass country/ rock album. Forget the pop bubble gum country like Luke Bryon and listen to this whole album for what it is. FUN!
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Dan Ward
January 24, 2023 @ 11:52 am
That’s funny, BG and Nickleback are going on tour together haha.
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Hank Charles
January 24, 2023 @ 8:49 am
Saw a video entitled “HARDY on Nickelback, Creed, and A Day to Remember” pop up on my YouTube feed the other day. Now I know why.
Hard pass.
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Colter
January 24, 2023 @ 9:21 am
I’ll stick with the raven and the dove.
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Sir Adam the Great
January 24, 2023 @ 11:00 am
Or “The Eagle and the Hawk”.
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Tom Turkey
January 24, 2023 @ 11:57 am
Or the raven and coyote.
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Spectrum Pulse
January 24, 2023 @ 12:57 pm
Or the bird and the rifle.
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Gil
January 24, 2023 @ 1:29 pm
Everyone knows no bird titled songs needed to be created after Ian Tyson’s Magpie.

Sr,Jones,Haggard,Strait,Whitley,Randy Travis
January 25, 2023 @ 9:50 am
Are you the YT dude?

Derrick
January 24, 2023 @ 9:27 am
Potentially controversial take, but I thought Hardy’s debut album was an example of a great rock album with country elements. That project had a lot of strong writing and a sound that was a new take on both country and rock instead of mediocre versions of both. It was one of the best albums to come out of Nashville in a while and wasn’t really like anything it had been done before.
I hear that in a couple of songs on this record (title track, screen, Wait in the Truck) – the Hardy I like is still in there somewhere. Otherwise, half of this to me sounds like an average post-bro country mainstream project, and half sounds like average mainstream post-grunge rock. I agree that together they’re kind of weird and interesting, but individually I just do not see anything in most of the songs, and I actually like some Hardy material a lot.
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Ian
January 24, 2023 @ 5:38 pm
Oh good one! Haven’t listened to Magpie in years!
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Ronald
January 24, 2023 @ 9:45 am
I honestly like the album. I do enjoy most of Hardy’s music. I think the song the mockingbird & The Crow is very well written. Being a country and rock music fan it blends the two styles better than any song I have heard.
As for comparing him to Nickelback, I feel like Puddle of Mud would be a better comparison. As always Trigger good review. I love the site.
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RyanPD
January 24, 2023 @ 4:46 pm
I got Puddle of Mudd vibes as well!
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Todd
January 24, 2023 @ 7:14 pm
“I got Puddle of Mudd vibes as well”
Thank you for this information. I’ll save me a lot of time to even attempt to listen to Hardy 💩💩💩💩
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RyanPD
January 24, 2023 @ 7:56 pm
You’re very welcome
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Dennis Reynolds
January 24, 2023 @ 9:54 am
I don’t know, Get In The Truck is so bad, like one of the most cringey songs I heard last year. You know he thought he was writing something deep and worthy, but it just came across as a country song written by AI, and not 2023 AI, more like 2015 AI. I’d actually have more time for the guy if he just stayed in his lane and carried on with the usual trucks and beer nonsense.
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Tom
January 24, 2023 @ 9:59 am
“Happy” reminds me of something off of Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood. Hardy’s songwriting is a cut above most Nashville radio, but I agree that it’s still too reliant on lists.
This record is creative, but would have been better if the country section was more country sounds (instead of just country themes). And ditto the rock section.
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Stellar
January 24, 2023 @ 10:13 am
Today I learned that Nickelback is still a thing. I don’t listen to radio thankfully.
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Strait86
January 24, 2023 @ 10:37 am
Every time I turn on the radio in the car to modern country music it sounds like the same ol’ bro country shit, just with more adjectives now.
I’ve also noticed this trend of having way too many lyrics crammed into the hook.It’s as if they know it sucks and if they say more so then maybe it will seem good.
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Strait86
January 24, 2023 @ 10:55 am
There comes a time when the idea of showing up to work late is disrespectful, and it’s good to give up soda and drunk driving, and jamming to 5 Finger Death Punch and Nelly in your cousin’s backyard while trying to finger a 17 year old. Hardy’s music is not for those people.
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Bill Wilson
January 24, 2023 @ 11:42 am
I haven`t listened to the album yet but i did see the review of it by spectrum pulse. He really tore into it and ripped it to pieces.
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The Original WTF Guy
January 24, 2023 @ 11:46 am
“It’s an element of his creativity.”
That is the most untintionally funny thing I’ve read in a while.
Doesn’t there have to be some creativity for it to be an element of that creativity?
Trig, there are only so many hours in the day. Please use yours to point out those that are *saving* country music, not exploiting or destroying it.
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Trigger
January 24, 2023 @ 12:29 pm
There are many reasons why “Saving Country Music” reviewing this album is compulsory. You’ve got a guy pointing out how radio country these days is inherently cliche in multiple songs. You have the closing of the unholy Florida Georgia Line/Joey Moi/Nickelback circle that started in Bro-Country that will sure to have implications in country music in the future. This is an important album.
Every years I review 100+ albums from underground/independent/up-and-coming artists, and 10 to 12 of the most important albums from the mainstream. This is one of those 10 to 12 albums.
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Tom
January 24, 2023 @ 2:48 pm
I was hoping this one would be reviewed. Thanks for taking it on Trigger.
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Brad
January 24, 2023 @ 12:38 pm
I listened to “here lies country music”. Absolutely terrible. If this is the next phase of mainstream country, it still is garbage. I don’t know if it’s the fans or record labels to blame. I lean towards the fans. I am told the target audience is 16-year-old girls. If those are the fans, then I will never be on board mainstream music. Anyways, once again this is worse than Abba playing a Texas honkytonk.
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MD
January 24, 2023 @ 12:41 pm
This Hardy album feels like bro country repackaged, with the song “screen” sounding exactly like “Give Heaven Some Hell” from his last album with different lyrics.
Outside of the song “JACK, the rock portion of the is blah. The new Easton Corbin album is a much better listen.
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Spectrum Pulse
January 24, 2023 @ 12:44 pm
First true dud album I’ve heard in 2023 – reminiscent of Eric Church’s ‘The Outsiders’ in an awkward genre fusion but swapping out Church’s fondness for swampy prog and blues for a lot of dated post-grunge and radio metalcore, except Church is a better singer and writer.
Although one point of irony I have to highlight is just how much HARDY emphasizes the music row assembly line of country-music-as-product as so soul-destroying, so much so that he cut a track called ‘here lies country music’ that feels like the afterbirth of ‘Murder On Music Row’… he then goes to the even more tired radio rock / Kid Rock worship that’s even more dated and badly produced. It’s why it’s a little sad when I see the fans scream at me ‘lol he’s laughing all the way to the bank’ – yeah, and y’all can’t tell how much that drudgery is the root cause of his angst, and he can’t quite contextualize it beyond broad sloganeering. And I don’t see how anyone takes his ‘I’m not part of the system, MAN!’ rhetoric when not only was he built on Music Row, the first half of the damn album runs that playbook.
This is an album that feels like an argument against its own existence.
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Strait86
January 24, 2023 @ 1:04 pm
Great comment
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Jbird
January 24, 2023 @ 1:04 pm
Why even review this garbage? Hardy is not one iota better or different than FGL or Luke Bryan. Why try to position him as if he were?
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Trigger
January 24, 2023 @ 3:56 pm
Hardy is better than Florida Georgia Line. No question. You can hate on stuff, and still draw distinctions.
I have always reviewed mainstream albums. Always. Not sure why folks act like it’s out-of-bounds when I do.
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Jbird
January 24, 2023 @ 4:42 pm
No, he’s not. You keep beating this same drum with Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen as well.
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Kentucky_1875
January 24, 2023 @ 1:38 pm
Too much good music out there to listen to Hardy. Just bought my ticket to see 49 Winchester next month in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Can’t wait for the show!!
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Todd
January 24, 2023 @ 7:16 pm
This!!!!
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wayne
January 24, 2023 @ 2:06 pm
ERNEST’s Salvage Sessions on youtube are pretty good. Of this loosley-knit club of theirs, I find him more intriguing and a bit more to my liking.
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David: The Duke of Everything
January 24, 2023 @ 4:22 pm
I don’t really think hardy is better than Florida Georgia line. I didn’t mind the cheesiness of some of flgs songs. We’re they a great country act, no but they filled their space. I can’t really take hardy serious. I like a song here or there but he usually ruins it at some point in there. But a good writeup even if I don’t plan on listening.
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RyanPD
January 24, 2023 @ 4:53 pm
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to listen to a different Nickelback album every month, and decide for myself if all the hate they’ve been receiving the last 20 years is really warranted. Their first album Curb is a little derivative of the grunge bands of the early 90s. Couple catchy songs that got my foot stomping, but overall not too great.
As for the HARDY album, I don’t hate it. Dude is plenty cringey, but I really really enjoyed Wait in the Truck, especially their CMA performance. I haven’t listened to any radio (on purpose) in years and I don’t plan on it any time soon, so I haven’t been exposed to all the bro country of the last decade or so, but I’d take Hardy over FGL or Luke Bryan any day.
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Rich
January 24, 2023 @ 6:32 pm
Made a trip to Nashville recently. Well specifically East Nash to see a show at the Basement East. But I did venture towards downtown to see a couple young aspiring songwriters at the Listening Room. This guy is their hero. They want to write like him because he has hits on radio. I heard songs about breaking up with beer and an old truck crapping out. One guy started playing covers and asked for requests. Tyler Childers please. Who? Zach Bryan please. Heard of him but don’t know any of his stuff, sorry. Despite progress on mainstream radio, Hardy and the likes are still kings in that town.
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Chris31
January 25, 2023 @ 3:39 am
Unfortunately so…
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Todd
January 24, 2023 @ 7:18 pm
If you play the drinking game “take a shot every time Morgan Wallen is mentioned in Saving country Music” , you’ll have liver failure within a month🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
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sock ponder
January 24, 2023 @ 9:57 pm
Post-grunge was arguably the most commercially successful variant to come out of the rock genre, maybe since the original rock’n’roll from the late 60s/early 70s. Given the popularity of bro-country that arose right after post-grunge started dying off, I’m really surprised it’s taken this long to have a major commercial record released at the intersection between the two genres.
I’ll be honest: I like the ample capital letter songs more than I thought I would. The genre of rock has been on musical life support for the past decade and desperately needs something to attract new audiences beyond divorced 50 year old dads trying to stay young. I wonder how this project is received.
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Ian
January 24, 2023 @ 11:21 pm
In the CorollaVirus I have one cassette, Always on My mind, got it for $3. Play it when I want music. I’m listening to Bitter Tears on vinyl tonight, last night Lynn Williams and David Bromberg. You sold me on not listening to this record. I like the all caps guy who did flower shop or whatever it’s called.
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Chris31
January 25, 2023 @ 3:36 am
A few years ago I was at a funeral for a guy my age who suddenly passed away. They played a song called Give Heaven Some Hell. A quarter way through the song I whisper to my wife “what the heck are we listening to”? She said, Hardy. Soon afterward there was a stretch where that song popped up all over the Highway (I don’t listen to that channel by choice but rather because I love my wife). When it would come on I’d tell my wife here’s the poor man’s Pay No Rent. These Artists like Hardy are like a McDonald’s hamburger. Whereas guys like Jason Eady are Top Sirloin.
Quick rabbit trail… was on a work trip in Texas and decided to visit the Broken Spoke. Their Top Sirloin was pretty good. And Weldon Henson had one of the best voices I’ve heard in country music.
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SMarco
January 25, 2023 @ 6:50 am
it’s ALL garbage, regardless of the GENRE.
Corny-ass lyrics…
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Scott S.
January 25, 2023 @ 7:27 am
I don’t hate Hardy’s music. As an old rock/metal guy from my younger years, I don’t mind a little bit of rockin’ out once in awhile. Same goes for some of the other guys like out there following the Koe Wetzel trend. I think Nickleback Country is a good description. Everyone loves to hate Nickleback, but secretly couldn’t help tapping a toe to their catchy music. Someone bought those millions of albums.
Hardy isn’t my favorite source of music, but he is Nickelback catchy, and fun to listen to occasionally. My daughter likes him, and it’s a good crossover of music we both like when we hang out. Oddly enough, it’s his attempts at “Real Country” that I like the least.
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Dee Manning
January 25, 2023 @ 11:41 am
Hardy has a spot in my heart because of God’s Country and Wait in the Truck and I love me some metal with my country so giving this a shot.
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