Review For “Hard Won: The Final Recordings” From Canadian Beats Magazine

Review – John Cody

Album:   Hard Won: The Final Recordings
Date:  May 26th, 2017
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Genre:  A Sincere, Soul-Filled, Blues-Laden, Jazz-Inspired, Acoustic-Tinged, Swan Song

One Line Review:  John Cody turns tragedy into triumph with his latest, and last, dynamically performed and arranged album Hard Won: The Final Recordings, a bittersweet ending to a bittersweet ending.

Full Review: 

The cover art shows a man sitting on a stool, an old blues resonator guitar on his lap, appearing to adjust or compose himself, cigarette in hand, bare feet on a black floor.  The picture promises poetry, a stark telling of true tales and heart worn stories, tested and tried through experience and glamour and grit.  At first one is wondering is he adjusting his glasses, wiping away a tear, or catching himself in a brief, off-guarded emotional moment.

The man in the picture is John Cody, and this is the cover for his latest, and last album, Hard Won: The Final Recordings.  Knowing this is Cody’s last album, knowing his larynx will be removed after receiving a devastating larynx cancer diagnosis, it is understandable to think that any noticed emotion is real, that the man we are looking it is facing the end of his career and, instead of giving into defeat, follows the advice of William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” to be the “master of [his] own fate.”

Before listening to the album, pause and reflect on the experience to come.  Unlike many musicians who are taken from this molded mortal mud unexpectedly, Cody created an opportunity to finish this last project, to leave one last mark on an already remarkable career, and leave audiences with a final message, instead of a final mystery.

A little mystery, however, doesn’t hurt.  His bare feet are connected to the black floor grounded like roots to the Earth, keeping himself solid, powerful, facing the inevitable vocal loss without bowed uncertainty.  John Cody doesn’t come across as a barefoot performer, as one would expect to see on a folk or old school bluegrass album.

Perhaps, instead, it is a nod to Sir Paul McCartney and the litany of “Paul McCartney is Dead” conspiracies, “proven” by his bare feet apparently hovering above the cross walk of Abbey Rod.  Cody is facing the end of his singing career and may be having a slight nod to the great “dead” Beatle.

Cody, however, unlike his conspiracy theory counterpart, is the “captain of [his] own soul” and, knowingly, despite the hardships to come, “out of the night which covers [him]”, Cody kicks his impending vocal loss straight in the jaw, blues-rock man kung fu style, creating a terrific album.

(Yes, I realize it is a stretch to think Cody purposefully has bare feet as a death homage to McCartney, but the analogy was too good to pass up, much like the bad pun appearing later on in this review.)

Cody’s impressive professional resume includes writing with the likes of Keith Urban, Christopher Ward (“Black Velvet”), John Capek (“Rhythm of My Heart”), co-authoring GRAMMY-winner Bonnie Raitt’s Fundamental, and Holly Cole’s Dark, Dear Heart.    Speaking to his accomplishments are the number of contributors and guest artists on Hard Won including JUNO Award-nominee Damnhait Doyle, multiple GRAMMY Award-winner Jennifer Warnes, The Bros. Landreth’s Joey Landreth, Golden Globe Award-winner and Academy Award-nominee Sharon Stone and JUNO Award-winner Tom Cochrane, who’s album Mad Mad World Cody vocal arranged, is prominently displayed at the National Music Centre in Calgary, AB.

Hard Won: The Final Recordings hits all the right notes, and a few wrong ones (no, there were no wrong notes, but the pun was too good to pass up and, based on the album title, Cody would appreciate the word play), displaying Cody’s musicianship and keen professional ear.   Song to song, listeners are taken on a musical mosaic, a pattern of influences creating the record and reliving a substantial songwriting career. READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW HERE