Friday 15 December 2017

Believe in the talent of tragic singer Hardin

Album Review: Reason to Believe – The Songs of Tim Hardin (Full Time Hobby) Various Artists

John Meagher

John Meagher

Tim Hardin was a folk-pop singer-songwriter from Eugene, Oregon, who died of a heroin overdose in 1980. He was just 39. His career peaked in the 1960s, while he was in his mid-20s, thanks to his first two albums, Tim Hardin 1 and Tim Hardin 2.

Although remaining comparatively obscure while he was alive – and practically forgotten in the decades that have followed his death – Hardin has come to be regarded as a songwriter's songwriter.

His best known song, If I Were A Carpenter, gave Bobby Darin a US Top 10 hit in 1966 and has been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Robert Plant.

Another composition, Reason to Believe, was memorably covered by Rod Stewart in 1971.

More recently, the underrated Texan indie-folk band Okkervil River released a concept album based on the life of Hardin called Black Sheep Boy, named after one of his more enduring – and deeply personal – songs.

It's little surprise, then, to see that band featuring on this specially commissioned tribute album and their woozy take on It'll Never Happen Again is as heartbreaking as it is lovely.

The 13 songs selected span Hardin's entire career and have new life breathed into them by an eclectic roll-call, including the American confessional singer-songwriter Alela Diane (How Can We Hang On to a Dream?) and rising Icelandic troubadour Snorri Helgason (Misty Roses).

Elsewhere, British experimentalists The Magnetic North – whose number includes ex-Verve band member Simon Tong – wonderfully capture the doomed melancholy of It's Hard to Believe in Love for Long, while few listeners will be left unmoved by Mark Lanegan's take on Red Balloon.

The former Screaming Trees singer's gruff vocals imbue the song's bare bones with an added poignancy.

It's a collection that should go some way towards rekindling an interest in Hardin's life and work.

The liner notes, written by the English critic and author Barney Hoskyns are a cut above the norm, too.

Incidentally, Hoskyns' website offers a treasure trove of old music journalism from rock's golden era.

Find it at

KEY TRACKS Red Balloon; How Can We Hang On to a Dream?

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