Greater Norwalk

Native Daughter Comes Home


By BARRY LANK

Greater Norwalk


January 11, 1999

After singing and playing the blues violin for so many years in nightclubs and bars, Heather Hardy came back Sunday to what had become the relatively alien setting of her hometown library.

Unlike her usual venues, there was no smoke here; there were no drunks. People didn't talk, order drinks, or wander around when she played. No fights broke out. Toddlers, retirees and people Hardy knew all her life attentively sat in rows and listened to her sing about rough and busted romance.

It was weird.

"Usually we do long gigs in the bars and we don't do much talking in between, so we're going to try and give you some of that experience here," she told the 150-member standing room only crown that jammed into the McManus Meeting Room.

She explained later during the break, "We weren't sure how people would react." She worried, for example, whether her band would be too loud. "But it's kind of the same once you start playing."

In its first concert of the year, the Westport Public Library brought in one of the town's native daughters-a product of Bedford Elementary School and Staples High School, and form there the Manhattan School of Music, the street and subway venues of New York City, and nightclubs from the East Coast to Tucson, Arizona.

She's played Irish fiddle; she's played in punk bands. Her first solo CD "Violins" just came out recently.

Hardy, 33, arrived back here Sunday with her 2 ½-year-old son Jacob and her four-piece band "Little Mama," featuring drummer Billy Atwell, guitarist Hiromasa Suzuki and bassist Mike Nordberg. Dressed entirely in black, Hardy laid down skilled and passionate blues on her black electric violin, also entertaining the family-style crowds with such lyrics as "I want a little sugar in my bowl," "Just give me five, 10, 15 hours of your love," and "Mama told me to look out for guys like you."

"Mama," as it happens, was standing in the back of the room. Judy Hardy has worked at the Westport Public Library for the last 10 years, and helped arrange the concert.

"It's been exciting to have our daughter come home," she said.

There were others there who knew her in high school. "I remember when she had a bob," said Francis Smith, referring to Hardy's hair. It hangs so long and straight now that, even at the best of times, it leaves half her face covered when she plays. "What I like is that when she's playing, she has something to hide behind," Smith said.

Rick Moore, who at age 35, is now taking to state for the record that he used to cheat off Hardy in music theory class at Staples, said that in high school she was the quiet type, but deeply generous.

"She'd do anything for anybody," he said.

And if it was a little strange for Hardy to have all these people lined up to say hello, her band members faced the unaccustomed feeling of having people actually paying attention to them when they played.

"I feel like everybody listened to us very closely," Suzuki said.