HARDY — the mockingbird & THE CROW (Big Loud Records)

The lines between country music and rock have long been blurred.

From Black Oak Arkansas to Blackberry Smoke and The Allman Brothers to The Cadillac Three: mixing familiar Tennessee tropes with deep rooted Georgian cool is an enduring trend.

Country and rock are inherently natural bedfellows.

Born to be together.

But this is next level experimentation from HARDY as he embraces the joy of bending genres and the freedom of broadening his reach on an expansive and ambitious double album.

Across 17 predictably adept tracks, the 32-year-old reigning ACM Songwriter Of The Year packs a powerful punch on the mockingbird & THE CROW.

The heavy-hitting follow-up to 2020 debut A ROCK veers from mellow to manic, reflective to riotous and back again.

It’s classic country, classic rock and a classic example of understanding the market.

the mockingbird & The CROW is testimony to Michael Wilson Hardy’s bold concept and it’s an illuminating insight into the Mississippi native’s wildly creative mind.

But is this sophomore effort too bloated for its own good?

The sheer volume and variety of the material here demands a serious commitment.

And at a time when Tik Tok-groomed attention spans are shorter than Joe Biden’s trousers it’s a gamble going down the double album road.

But given HARDY’s soaring popularity, robust reputation and the strength of the songs here it’s a gamble that could — and should — pay off.

The lines might be blurred but the vision is clear: country rocks. Hard.

…Truck Stop Starts The Party

Collaborating with Lainey Wilson is just one of the many smart moves HARDY’s made during the last few years.

Third up and reassuringly familiar, monster hit wait in the truck ignites the mockingbird & THE CROW and the pace never slackens.

Wilson and HARDY will be flying the flag for country music for decades to come.

And their timely partnership is the perfect entry point to a compelling record.

An album spilt into two distinct halves, the title track marks the switch between country and rock.

The mid-song juxtaposition of balladeering country and bellowing nu-metal might be a leap too far for die-hard fans of both genrea.

But HARDY doesn’t care much for convention.

Take the second best hook-up here.

RADIO SONG sees the main man jostle for position with A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon on a noisy, nasty dig at the music industry’s tastemakers.

A made-for-the-moshpit collab is more than blurring the lines: it’s outside the lines, outside the comfort zone and way beyond anything HARDY has attempted in the past.

And of course that’s the problem — as well as the solution — where the mockingbird & THE CROW is concerned.

On the one hand there’s the beautifully affecting radio-hit-in-the-making, happy.

And on the other side of the coin there’s the riff-fuelled rocker KILL SHIT TILL I DIE.

HARDY’s latest long player is just as likely to divide as it is to conquer.

But as far as Rushonrock’s concerned this Linkin Park meets Lynyrd Skynyrd hybrid is an absolute triumph.

Check out this week’s Red Hot Track Of The Week by Dustin Lynch

And if you love country you’ll love our Best Country Albums Of 2022 list!