M Ward’s latest features many guests and many beautiful melodies.
Opening with the Dylanesque ‘Lifeline‘, all acoustic guitar and subtle flourishes and a very rapid fade, M Ward sets out his stall. His voice is a rich, honeyed thing and lyrically a song about needing and wanting and being there for each other is a lovely, slight thing, upbeat and yearning. ‘Too Young To Die‘ follows featuring the first of many guests, in this instance First Aid Kit but in reality it is their track featuring M Ward. A delightful, simple piece of call and response again highlighting Ward’s evocative vocal style as he harmonises with the Soderbergs and production booms and echoes with their trailing melodies. Other guests on the album include Shovels and Rope, Neko Case and Jim James (his Monsters of Folk alumni) and they all bring their own thing but the sense of whole is not undermined. These creatives bring a depth to the colours already there.
The simple, folksy feel continues but speeds up a couple of gears with the single ‘Supernatural Thing’, a jaunty drift through the thoughts of the King – Elvis – when encountering life’s ups and downs. It’s ephemeral and light but a joyous thing featuring as it does touches of fiddle and rockabilly guitar. This upbeat, rock-roll shuffle continues with ‘new kerrang’ with its slashes of piano and jagged guitar.
As the album expands we stumble across the beautiful and very obscure Bowie cover from Blackstar. ‘i can’t give everything away‘ featuring Jim Jones and Kelly Pratt opens with a winsome sax, voices drifting in and out from the ether as a fuzzed guitar whirls in the mists of the rhythm. It’s a surf instrumental for a warm, warm night.
This is an album that shifts its shape yet retains a coherent identity as M Ward steers his creative ship across a musical sea full of surprises and warm interludes. Repeated listens unfold a lovely thing with the possible exception of ‘Mr Dixon‘ which somehow does not grow as well as other tracks. Investigation is highly recommended and the Daniel Johnson cover album closer is a killer!