On this, her debut EP, Ania Hardy sings four down-home secular spirituals – simple, folksy, bluesy pastiches, pure and unadorned. They’re a comforting clutch of songs – no surprises as Hardy’s big, all-woman hug of a voice soothes and sighs, lulls and rises to sing, in the title track, of her narrator’s lover. There is an unabashed English-ness to Hardy’s vowels that recalls Maddy Prior, while the timbre of her voice is Allison-Kraus-meets-June-Tabor. Her vocal sits front and centre, the backdrop band maintaining the mood. I would have welcomed a little more double bass (I heard it’s all about that…). The brushed drums, too, remain a little distant, while supportive in the roomy mix. With Hardy’s vocals so full, honest and true, the strings on ‘No One Knows’ sound feint by comparison (a big, real piano would have lifted this EP also). Hardy turns sultry on loungey ‘Call My Name’, and lightly swings on ‘Heavy Load’ – the latter my pick of the bunch on account of the slide guitar. My Beloved is a sound calling card for this empathic English songstress, but with its gospel ambitions simmering, the recording feels timid. Shy it is not, but it hides its boldness under a bushel when I want to hear these songs belted out by a choir, with Hardy and a grand piano at full tilt.

Ania Hardy’s website

Ania Hardy’s Facebook

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