Small-town Mississippi native HARDY planned on a writing career behind the scenes when he arrived in Nashville with a songwriting degree from Middle Tennessee State, and got off to a great start with “Up Down,” a breezy 2017 hit for Morgan Wallen, followed by big singles for Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton. But HARDY’s own pair of EPs and his lighthearted, guest-packed 2019 flex HIXTAPE, Vol. 1 indicated that he had the droll charisma to deliver his own songs.
His debut album, A ROCK—produced by Joey Moi with contributions from Derek Wells, David Garcia, and Jake Mitchell—is skillful on multiple fronts. In the rollicking, rap-adjacent talking-blues number “WHERE YA AT” and the loose-limbed honky-tonk tune “UNAPOLOGETICALLY COUNTRY AS HELL,” HARDY's clever about the time-tested country trope of claiming backwoods lifestyles as big-time bragging rights. “ONE BEER,” a tale of a young couple’s unexpected pregnancy, featuring guest vocals from Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson; “BROKE BOY,” a self-deprecating account of starting a romance; and the title track, with its down-to-earth take on the cycle of life, are all built on lean, evocative storytelling. During both “BOOTS” and “AIN'T A BAD DAY,” razor-edged guitar riffs and metal theatrics amplify HARDY’s brooding. He even has a way of sneaking a bit of sentimentality into his toasts to rabble-rousing roughnecks (see: “TRUCK” and “GIVE HEAVEN SOME HELL”).