Fingerpistol - Young and Beautiful Album Review
  • 5/5
Reviewed by Billys Bunker

Generosity You Can Dance To. Dan Hardick is a generous songwriter. His country songs are too good to be missed by the rockers in this world. Dan writes about life with more soul than all those clever Top 40 songs they play on the radio.

"I wrote a poem in ( I think it was 9th grade) and the teacher called my parents in and told them I'd plagiarized it. I swore up and down that I hadn't and ultimately she couldn't prove me wrong, but I don't think she ever believed me. I think it was sometime around then that I found out I had knack for putting words together in an interesting way. I started playing guitar shortly thereafter. It was a good fit. People are much more forgiving of songwriters than they are of poets. They are also more encouraging of them. I have always felt that being told I was a good songwriter at a young age was as much a curse as it was a blessing. I think for many years I was writing songs partly to live up to their expectations. I think these days I do it mostly for myself. I think the result has been that I'm not quite as prolific as I used to be, but I'm much more satisfied with the result."
~ Dan Hardick, songwriter for Fingerpistol

[The paragraphs below in quotes are from songwriter Dan Hardick in response to questions in an email.]

Dan Hardick has been a songwriter since he was far too young. I sent him a bunch of questions in an email like I do, and he sent back more insight than any songwriter I've ever known. I think he can find the human side of any situation and put it into a song that makes life worth living. He's a country artist with all the sweet honest observation of a Meiko with a heap of Hank Williams. It's a rare artist can dole out encouragement in a bleak time, but Dan has the gift. He cares. I don't cotton to mindless encouragement, so it takes a rare songwriting voice to get through to me. Fingerpistol has that sound I respond to, though I might have been born in a darker part of town.

"I think there was a time when I was trying awfully hard to be clever both musically and lyrically. Somewhere I realized along the way that music isn't a wholly intellectual medium. In fact, at its best it's a very emotional one. Sure, people connect to songs intellectually to a certain extent, but the songs that stay with them usually have a strong emotional aspect. I can sing you most of the lyrics to Jimmy Buffett's 'Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw,' but my favorite song of his is 'West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown,' and not because I relate to the character in the song, but because I listened to that song over and over on a long night drive back from Nashville back in the early Eighties and it just sort of captures a mood for me. Same thing for Jimmy Cliff's Power and the Glory' or Bob Seger's 'Night Moves' or more recently Death Cab for Cutie's 'I'll Follow You Into the Dark.' My daughter and her friends sing that one around the campfire and it mists me up every time. Probably the songwriter who brought me the most to this epiphany was Billy Joe Shaver. Like Hank Williams his songs have simple words that pack a huge emotional punch. Sure, I would love to write like James McMurtry, but if I could do that with the force of a Billy Joe Shaver song, shit, I'd die happy." ~ Dan Hardick

I've come to think of Dan as a consummate songwriter. It's Wednesday morning and Spring is dawning out my window. I've been exchanging emails with Dan and it's a great privilege. We're talking about Hank Williams, Neil Young, John Prine and John Hiatt. That's the company he keeps in my imagination. His words are that clear and simple. I have no doubt his music will ring true to anyone brought up on country, but I think every rocker with an "anything but country" attitude playing the blues on his Les Paul should listen carefully to Fingerpistol. These songs are better than that clever stuff I hear on the Top 40 radio. A man's reach shouldn't exceed his grasp. I love rock 'n' roll, R&B, and all that pop. Without country music none of that other music would have a heart. Dan is a great example why I have converted to country. The world is too damn tough to pass up a good song.

"I asked my wife to marry me the first time I met her, while simultaneously (and accidentally) pouring beer into her best friend's lap." ~ Dan Hardick

It helps to have a sense of humor. Life is a long long road. You don't want to take that journey without some music to make the ride worth taking.

What do you love about music? "It keeps me company wherever I go. If there's not a song playing outside my head, there's definitely one playing inside it. I also love the fact that music can be incredibly complicated, or incredibly simple." ~ Dan Hardick

Dan's songs move me. He knows what he's after. I want to take a chance on my dreams, and love a little more after listening to this album. Maybe Fingerpistol is like a big brother on a disc. Dan seems to know how to live. He is a generous man. These songs are generosity you can dance to. Dan Hardick says it best: "The Fingerpistol is a love gun."


1. GOODBYE, MARIE might be written to a girlfriend, friend or a daughter. If it's written to a daughter, it might be what Neil Young calls an "Empty Nester Song." Comes a time to say goodbye and move out into the world. "Goodbye Marie. Go get your share of that big wide world out there. Goodbye Marie." I can't think of a more generous beginning for an album. Parting may be sweet sorrow, but Dan is open hearted in his encouragement. God, I love that about this song. "Don't leave it to fate. Don't look for a sign. Don't wait for the planets to align. If you won't listen to your heart, then listen close to me. Goodbye Marie." There's a brilliant line in this song: "You're spinning around like a clock on the wall, waiting for your dreams to call. Making plans until your plans are all that's standing in your way." Don't let your plans stand in your way! "Were not getting any younger." It's a big world out there. "You don't want to lose that hunger." This song is beautiful. That's a rare thing. Generosity you can dance to.

I asked Dan if this was an empty nester song.

"For me it's sort of an allegory for a lot of my personals regrets, with the wisdom of age making the narrator a bit more generous. I think it's pretty universal. Most regrets are the result of inaction rather than action. That's the one thing I hope to impart to my daughters: If you try at least you won't regret." ~ Dan Hardick

2. YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL finds the deeper beauty beneath the skin. The airwaves are full of songs about hot young lovely girls. "Twenty years now where you've been? Down that road and back again. Your roots are showing gray, but does your mind recall the day when you were young and beautiful. Young and beautiful. Young and beautiful." They say beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness is all the way to the bone. "Now what if the measure of what you've done is the person that you've become. In twenty years will you look the same? Will they ask you, 'What's your name?' What's your name?" I don't know about you. This song moves me. I'm gonna take a minute with that little extra water in my eye. "Twenty years now, what's in store? If you're lucky maybe forty more. Knowing what you know now, would you do it again now if somehow you were young and beautiful? Young and beautiful. Young and beautiful? What's your name?" If that doesn't move you now, wait a few years. What's your name?

3. LITTLE BIT OF FAITH rivals John Hiatt's "Have A Little Faith In Me." There's a touch of John Prine in the mix. Dan Hardick lives in the same world as you and me, but he seems to see it better. "No matter what they think. No matter what they say. A little bit of faith from you goes a long long way." If this song is even half true, Dan Hardick is a lucky man.

4. STILL IN TEXAS is that road song through Texas with something else in mind. "I've been drivin' and drivin' and drivin' and I'm still in Texas." Dan may be at the wheel, but he's taking that Interstate of mind from location to location. "Could have gone from Paris all the way to Rome in the time that I've been on this highway trying to get home. And I may be superstitious, yeah but I believe it's a sign when you get a flat tire two miles from the Texas state line." Hey, that's not a road song at all. "Can't seem to get away. Guess I might as well stay." I think that's what they call a geographic. You can try to find yourself somewhere else, but wherever you go there you are. "All you ever been is here." Now, Dan might have bad teeth singing like the Clash if he had been born in Liverpool or Manchester. A good songwriter is good in any style. Dan's country. He's Texas. Ain't nothing wrong with that. He writes a good song. Can't run from that. "I get lost sometimes, but I try not to show it. Maybe an end in sight, but I wouldn't know it." Keep drivin' down that long road. "All you ever been is here."

5. TWO STRONG ARMS takes aim at the co-dependent with a themesong for the beaten woman in all of us. Maybe there's no one to take us to be that bridge over the troubled waters. "She loved a man or so it seemed. What she loved just turned out to be what she'd dreamed." I wrote a monolog on this subject years ago about bad love and a lack of self respect that's wrapped around my dreams. Seems when we think we've found everything, we get nothing but pain. "She wanted two strong arms. No one ever told her that those two strong arms were her own." We face "the cruel world all alone." Dan writes a great love song. This one is that something else. "For years she lived a lie thinking she could change him somehow by and by. But then one day she just gave in, took the kids and promised never to come back again." We all have two strong arms. "No one ever told her that those two strong arms were her own." This song is haunting. It's true. It's something borrowed and something blue. Without that emancipation from the broken romantic idea, life is like a puzzle piece that won't fit snug. This is a beautiful song.

6. SADNESS AND PAIN is the inspirational story of Molly, who knows something about life. In theological circles, this song would be said to be about the Problem of Pain. There's enough darkness here, the light just shines through bright and brilliant. "She's thinking 'My life could be better, but I don't know how.' She's thinking, 'My life is right here and now.'" Molly isn't some happy, pretty, rich girl. She's a girl on her moped about to turn 27. "Molly's got this tattoo on her shoulder that says, 'Touch me and I'll scream.' It started out as a joke at first, but lately it's become a theme. Three months out of chemo and she's still feeling weak. Most of her hair is gone. And she's starting to realize now there's a whole lot in life you just can't count on." This song makes me cry a little, but it mainly makes me want to live. "She's not complaining about the way things are and the way things ought to be."

"She'd like to talk to Jesus!
She'd wants to talk to Jesus!
She'd like to talk to Jesus!
And maybe he could explain
All this sadness and pain."

"Actually Molly is a composite. My grandmother died of stomach cancer and oddly, it's sort of a tribute to her - at least emotionally for me. She was 94. You could almost say she died of old age. She was active and involved and interesting all the way to the end. She lived that line from the end of Candide, "Every day we must go to work in the garden." Despite all the ugliness and heartache (and joy too) she experienced in her life, she just kept plugging. Of course, Matthew McConnaughey offer's similarly profound advice as a logo sewn onto his clothing line: 'Just keep livin.'" ~ Dan Hardick

Molly is my hero. Dan is my friend.

7. OLD PROMISES is that song from a place where rock and country meet for coffee. "A long long time ago when I used to steal the show I promised I would never be some washed up troubadour, an aging dinosaur, who wouldn't bow out gracefully. Yeah, but here I am singing to you, 'Old Promises are hard to remember." I think Pete Townsend might be singing this song. He said he wanted to die before he got old. He's still singing that song. Some promises are better not kept.

Dan says, "Old promises is sadly biographical."

8. MEDICINE (written by Chad Price and Jon Snodgrass) came up on the album right after I thought he might have learned his philosophy from AA. Nope! "A bottle a day keeps the doctor away, or so my girlfriend says." This song is kind of The Days of Wine and Roses in reverse. "She's cranky when she's sober but so sweet when she's wasted." There may be a tragedy in the making here, but it's not happening now. "I can't stay clean long. I hope she's not angry anymore." Don't try this at home kids. There may be a sequel to this song make you want to cry. This one is sweet and a little woozy. Dan didn't write this song, but it's a good song. Don't try this one at home.

9. WYOMING takes a turn for the fuzz box on the road to Neil Young. "Sweat soaked from the heat. Steam rising from the street. Shoes blistering off my feet. I've got to get out of this hell." It's been "two months without rain." Guess Texas has it's hot days. "Wyoming where I want to be with that big blue sky rolling over me. Miles and miles of beautiful scenery and all of the time in the world." Sometimes life is like a barbecue grill. "Somebody put a fork in this town!" It's done.

10. GET BACK UP breaks out the radio mic for that distant sound that cuts through the nonsense. This is the kind of country Eddie Cochran called rock 'n' roll. "Everyday I'm gonna stand up tall. Knowing that I've paid my dues. When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose." He came across a preacher and asked him "why it is that everybody wants to cause me pain." Well, the same thing happened to Jesus when he was "carrying that bloody cross. They were doing the same thing too. Well, he got back up when they was knocking him down. Well he got back up, when they was knocking him down down down down down down down." Get up!

11. RESCUE is a ballad worthy of Melissa Manchester. "When your mind starts to slip away. When you can't remember things you did yesterday, I'll rescue you." The Hammond organ kicks in for a service in the church of what's happening now. I've warn the groove off my John Hiatt records, so I'll be listening to Fingerpistol when I need that lift. I think the real superhero must be a songwriter.

12. WAKE THE DEAD just might. "We'll wake the dead tonight, roll stones away." If you don't have a heart, you won't write a good song. Dan wrote this one for his grandmother. It Rocks!

Yesterday we buried my grandmother in this clay
Ninety-four years old when she died
Bound to this place with blood and sweat and toil and tears
And nothing much to show for it but pride
Names etched in granite show the ravages of time
Someday these stones will all be gone
Whole lives forgotten & their stories left untold
But still their spirit carries on
In my blood they carry on
We'll wake the dead tonight
Roll the stones away

Tell those sleeping bones that we'll be joining them someday
We'll wake the dead tonight
Put 'em all on warning
We'll wake the dead tonight and rest with 'em in the morning

Singing hey na na na, hey na na na, hey na na na na
Singing hey na na na, hey na na na na
Singing hey na na na, hey na na na, hey na na na na
Singing hey na na na, hey na na na na

We'll wake the dead tonight
Roll the stones away
Tell those sleeping bones that we'll be joining them someday
We'll wake the dead tonight
Put 'em all on warning
We'll wake the dead tonight and rest with 'em in the morning


Dan Hardick - vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonica
Suzee Brooks - vocals
Sam Wilson - bass
Jill Csekitz - drums, percussion
Geoff Cline - guitar


Landis Armstrong ~ stratocaster
Gretchen Weihe ~ mandolin
Cindy Cashdollar ~ steel guitar, dobro, lap steel
Steve Schmidt ~ organ, piano
Additional vocals on "Wake the Dead" by the Boyland Chorus

All song written by Dan Hardick except for "Medicine" by Chad Price and Jon Snodgrass