Hurt – Paul Pedana (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Hurt is one of those rare sonic beasts, a song which is better known for its popularity via a subsequent cover version rather than the original artists version. It happens rarely, Kirsty MacColl’s rendition A New England had a longer life than the Billy Bragg original and of course most people know Hallelujah thanks to Jeff Buckley than the Leonard Cohen original. Few others spring readily to mind. Hurt, originally penned by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, only reached mass recognition thanks to Johnny Cash when he chose to rework the song for American IV: The Man Comes Around, a job so well done that Reznor himself declared “that song isn’t mine anymore.”

Even before its launch into the mainstream, it was a fine song and perhaps Cash was drawn to its themes of depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies, joy and despair having always woven through his life in a sweet and destructive dance.

Perhaps you need to understand anguish and set-backs, have walked close to the edge to really be able to deliver such a song effectively, to really get to its dark heart, to delivery it with the required amount of edge and emotion. Paul Pedana understands the transience of life since a near-death experience left him with as many visible scars as mental ones. The body heals, the mind takes much longer. Perhaps it is this experience, this understanding, which makes his version of the song so authentic.

And although his take leans more towards Cash’s bleak Americana ballad than Reznor’s alt-rock funeral dirge, it makes for a worthy addition to the songs on-going story. And that is all you can ask for really. Does it add something to the sonic journey? The answer here being a resounding yes!

He delivers the song with the required world-weary detachment, the dark reflections, the conjuring of difficult memories, the revealing of hidden wounds, this is both acceptance and exorcism. The accompanying video flits between the here-and-now and snap shots of his earlier life, both good and bad, reminding us that it is as much the suffering that shapes who we are, provided we learn from it.

Taken from his last album, A Sole Existence Reflects Eternity, this rendering of Hurt is a timely message and perhaps in such times the song seems to also be about less individual concerns and becomes a poignant and powerful message about collective hurt, about the damage being done across communities and cultures through the rampant charge of the politics of hate and inequality, also something which is close to Pedana’s heart as demonstrated by an array of activism and advocation which he turns his music to.

Covers are often seen as a quick way to ride the coat-tails of an established artist, and that is how many approach it. Paul Pedana comes from an altogether different place. He understands the song he is re-exploring, he relates to its words and more than that he also sees how those words go beyond the original meaning and take up new purpose. It takes an astute artist to be able to understand such matters, it takes an artist like Paul Pedana.

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