Charlottesville-based indie folk-rock outfit recently released Hard World, a 12-track collection of dark folk-rock.
According to the band, “‘Hard World’ is a late-night drive into a world filled with wrong turns and dead-end streets. It’s wide blend of pop-folk musings, roots rock stompers and fractured southern gothic noir mines a myriad of influences ranging from Johnny Cash and exile period Rolling Stones to the stories of Raymond Carver.”
Made up of Robert Sawrey (vocals, guitar), Damir Kajan (acoustic and electric guitar), Carter Litvinas (electric guitar and bass), Zach Samel (acoustic and electric guitar, bass, piano, drums), and Luc Haden Smith (vocals), Hadnot Creek formed in 2016, followed by releasing their debut album, Winter, in 2018.
Guests appearing on the album include Lee Sargent (acoustic and electric guitar) on tracks 1,3,6, and 12, along with Leah Ruth (backing vocals) on the fourth track.
The album begins with “Methadone Guy,” opening on gleaming guitars riding a measured, gentle rhythm. Sawrey’s evocative voice infuses the lyrics with tantalizing narrative colors akin to Tom Petty.
“Well Sherlock stole Shirley from Sam / Because she liked getting high / When Sam asked why she left him / She said because he’s a Methadone guy / Yeah…He’s a Methadone Guy / Yeah…He’s a Methadone Guy.”
Outstanding tracks include “Liars In Love,” which rolls out on tasty alt-rock textures. On this song, Sawrey’s tight, reedy tones give the lyrics roasting intensity, while radiant vocal harmonies fill the overhead spaces. A stellar guitar solo imbues the harmonics with luminous coloration.
“Toxic Wonder” opens on a cool drum shuffle segueing into a melody conjuring up savors of Lou Reed, projecting dirty guitar hues and a sparkling piano. “You Got Caught” begins slowly and then ramps up to powerful murky guitars surging with smoggy granularity. I love the vocals on this track, exuding retro-punk inflections.
“Sorry about your situation / You probably thinking it’s my fault / I guess I got lucky / Sorry that you got caught.”
The final track, “The Day I Started Using Again,” offers low-slung guitars topped by sad, regretful vocals, telling the melancholy story of getting clean and then reverting back.
Although dark and portentous, Hard Work attracts listeners with its stark presentation of the realities of the world, where things don’t always work out.