Hey Sammy is the ninth album in the 10 year musical career of singer-songwriter Bella Hardy. Whilst 2015's 'Before The Dawn' was a breathtaking, fragile sound stripped bare, punctuated with injections of electronics; 2017 sees Bella musically on Hey Sammy with a fuller, more confident sounding album.

First track 'Redemption' is a nice link between the two albums as it starts with a subtle woodwind and piano accompaniment allowing that still incredible vocal to soar around the words, which are quiet lovely “...Friendship is the key to all things true. Love is each day's redemption. Where kindness shines then love will see us through.” Just as we think we're settling into familiar territory, the pulsing bass line intro and backing vocal harmonies of 'Learning To Let Go' come as a shock, but sets the trend for much of the album, the one fixed point being Bella's vocal.

Further examples of the change in emphasis are on 'Driving Through Harmony' which starts with a funky guitar part and some math-rock percussion, and the power chords in 'You Don't Owe The World Pretty', written as a birthday present for a young relative and in any decent world would be getting radio plays. The Sammy of the title track is the son of Romanians who lived in the flat below Bella's in Glasgow and the lyrics address the ignorance about immigration “ And I wish she never knew what the papers say about you ... that they were saying you should go.” but with hope for the future “... and from my window I saw the border's kicked away. On a grey afternoon in Glasgow.” We're back to more familiar trad. musical themes with 'Queen of Carter's Bar' which Bella revealed at a recent show in Nottingham was written in response to the trad tune 'Tam Lin'.

Album highlight is 'Heartbreaker', “It's naked brick, it's peeling walls. He never writes she never calls. Heartbreaker.”, sings Bella on the most Kate Bush sounding track (which obviously makes it great) not sung by Kate herself.

Final track 'Stars' was written during a working trip to China where Bella was British Council and PRS for Music Foundation Musician in Residence in Yunnan province. The first part is based upon one of the works in the Shijing, the oldest collection of Chinese poetry, which is followed by a second written by Bella linking the stars she saw in China with those she had seen at home, “Yunnan. Some of your stars are my stars .. They are fascinating satellites. Orion's belt like disco lights.”, and how the World then seems much smaller.

A musical shift for sure, but another great album by the ever wonderful Bella Hardy.


Alisdair Whyte