This is an apt title for Melissa Ferrick’s fifth studio CD since she began her firebrand folk-rock career almost a decade ago. It’s trademark Ferrick, bristly and filled with scratchy vocal inflection, near-dissonant melodies, and fearless soul mining. Her work requires that you mull over her tales of survival and love and her quest to exorcise demons of insecurity. Fleshing out these treatises are B-52’s/Gang of Four bassist Sara Lee, mandolin player Jimmy Ryan of the Blood Oranges and countless other Boston roots groups, and songbird Edie Carey on backing vocals. Ferrick’s lone bandmate, drummer Brian Winton, is also along for the ride.
Standout tracks include "Shatter Me" and "All for Me," sharply etched odes to the warriors of life who refuse to be loaded down by other people’s baggage. Yet this collection would be better rounded out if there were more material like the breezy, melody-driven pop of "Back in Love," in which Ferrick scats joyfully to a quasi-reggae beat. The Ipswich native is never more appealing than when showcasing her brawny acoustic chops on such buoyant fare. On the flip side, Ferrick’s fans are typically drawn to her because they value frank lyrics over slick, would-be hits. Listen Hard may lack the sticking power of the more hummable work in her catalogue, but its unfettered prose is sure to yield new disciples.
(Melissa Ferrick performs this Saturday, May 18, at Avalon. Call 617-262-2424.)