Music

People You Ought to Know: Celebrating the life of Jack Hardy

Okee dokee folks… “I Ought To Know” is a song by the late, great singer-songwriter, Jack Hardy. It includes poignant lines such as “I ought to know the songs of Joe Hill, I ought to know Trotsky, Marx and Hagel; I ought to know about the Haymarket hangings, And the H.U.A.C. This I ought to know, but I don’t.”

It is probably the closest Hardy ever had to a pop song, but it still maintained his working of serious, intelligent lyrics. Jack Hardy passed away 10 years ago this month of lung cancer at age 63, presumably caused by the debris at Ground Zero Jack inhaled while searching the site for his brother, who died in the Twin Towers.

Hardy was the champion of the Greenwich Village Folk scene and helped many artists, such as Suzanne Vega, John Gorka and countless others, get their start. He held a well-known songwriters night critique at his Houston Street apartment, which was part of the impetus for him to start Fast Folk Magazine in 1982. The publication included recordings and lyrics from up-and-coming songwriters such as Lyle Lovett, Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Michelle Shocked, Christine Lavin, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky.

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Fast Folk also had an issue dedicated entirely to Rhode Island when the first Hear In Rhode Island music festival was recorded for the magazine. Hardy was inspirational in the beginning of The Rhode Island Songwriter Association (RISA) and occasionally was a guest host at RISA critiques. Besides all this, Jack was a friend of mine. I met him in the early ’90s when Fuzek-Rossoni did a weekend of shows with him Passim in Boston, and I did many shows with him over the years.

Hardy toured the US and Europe often, but drew more fans abroad. He still had a lot of stories to tell when he died, but he left a body of work containing at least 20 albums and a tribute recording of his songs by various artists. Smithsonian Folkways now owns the Fast Folk recordings, and Hear In Rhode Island is enshrined as well. You ought to know Jack Hardy. For more, “Bandolier” to: JackHardy.com   

Most of you probably know John Juxo and if you don’t know by now, Juxo recently released a follow up to his last offering, Long Distance Driver. Juxo has been part of the RI music scene for decades as a band member or the consummate sideman on keys or accordion. His new album has a title that is near and dear to my heart, Get Off Of My Lawn. This recording was made during the pandemic lockdown. You may have had the opportunity to catch one of his many livestreams from The Rehearsal Space where this recording germinated. While Juxo did not write any of the songs on this disc, he certainly makes them his own. The very first piano notes transform wherever you are into New Orleans. Juxo could easily slide into the line-up of Rhode Island’s Rhythm and Roots Festival and wow the crowd. Throughout the collection Juxo is supported by musicians Benny Banning, Lisa Marie, Jim Morgan and Virginia Stevens. He certainly curated a wonderful collection of tunes from some of the best songwriters the area has to offer like Paul Geremia, Mark Cutler, Bill Harley, Keith Munslow, Dan Lilley, Mickey Scotia as well as the late Barry Cowsill. A couple of notable tracks on the CD are the titular “Get Off Of My Lawn” by Glenn Shambroom and “$20 Gig” by Mickey Bones (we musicians can all relate to this one!). With Dan Lilley’s “Stormy Seas,” he turns the vocals over to Virginia Stevens who beautifully interprets Lilley’s lines. The closing song is Mickey Scotia’s “Something Good Coming,” which leaves you with a quiet, soulful feeling. Juxo’s vocals and piano are simple, yet rich and emotive. He is carrying the torch of the late piano men Dr. John and Leon Russell with some juke joint boogie-woogie stylings of his own. Ironically four of the writers on this recording (Cutler, Lilley, Warren, Scotia) were featured on the Hear In Rhode Island edition of the Fast Folk Magazine I mentioned above. My favorite song from that HIRI disc was Jimmy Warren’s “Wine In a Bottle” that the Flying Ditchdiggers recorded, which Juxo was a member of back in 1994. On this CD, he does his own admirable take on that song. The liner notes quotes Juxo saying, “I love playing songs written by my friends and the many talented people that I admire and have had the pleasure of working with over the years.” You can certainly hear this with every note on the disc. You will want to own this one. For a “Real Good Time” head over to: Facebook.com/JohnJuxo

S-L-O-W-L-Y things are beginning to happen again and S-L-O-W-L-Y is the only way they should. The Greenwich Odeum is offering both livestream and limited in-person shows. Coming up are Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Hubby Jenkins, Hey Nineteen (Steely Dan tribute), Sophie B. Hawkins and more (greenwichodeum.com). The PumpHouse will begin presenting shows on the green again starting April 16 with New Nova, Groovin Confusion, and DudeManBro (pumphousemusicworks.com). The Stone Church Coffeehouse in Bristol is back on April 10 when they bring in The Meadows Brothers (stonechurchcoffeehouse.weebly.com).

Insomnia paid off for me because I managed to score one of the vaccine appointments that seem to become available at 3am. I will be fully vaccinated in time for my first live gig in eons, happening at the end of April. YAY! Anyway, that’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

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