Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
Although he's been compared to everyone from John Fahey to Tom Waits to Howe Gelb, with "Hold Time", it's clear that M. Ward, with his brilliant guitar playing and innate sense of melody, is one of those rare and special t... more »
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Although he's been compared to everyone from John Fahey to Tom Waits to Howe Gelb, with "Hold Time", it's clear that M. Ward, with his brilliant guitar playing and innate sense of melody, is one of those rare and special talents who defy comparison and compartmentalization. His deft guitar picking, bar room piano, and voice like drizzled honey make him a huge favorite of music critics and the focus of public praise from such disparate talents as Norah Jones and Oasis' Noel Gallagher.
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M. Ward - Hold Time 10/10
Rudolph Klapper | Los Angeles / Orlando | 02/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a world of Pro Tools and Logic, any wannabe guitarist can pick up the nearest acoustic and strum out a few half-hearted tunes about the allure of the road and their lost love, but few have been able to do it as consistently and as accurately as Portland, Ore.-based wunderkind M. Ward. With a healthy appreciation for his musical roots and a talent for speedy finger picking that calls to mind the greats of his favorite genre, Ward has proven time and again that folk-pop is in no danger of dying out, no more so than on his seventh effort, the superb Hold Time.
Ward's diverse oeuvre is even more striking when you look at the clearly discernable sense of progress he has made over the years, from the lo-fi acoustic wizardry of his debut to his more recent orchestral tapestries. Fresh off his work with actress Zooey Deschanel in the duo She & Him, Hold Time is the logical progression in his work, sounding like a more male-dominated version of She & Him's ode to the soul of the `60s, Volume One. Opener "For Beginners" is a concise bridge into his new work, a deceptively quick guitar melody underlying Ward's roughened vocals. The mellow production and Ward's campfire playing create a song with a sort of timeless quality to it, one that would sound just as home in an old-time western saloon as it does on an iPod's headphones.
The following trio of songs that open the record play like a best-of collection of some unsung folk hero, with the bluesy thump of "Never Had Nobody Like You" and the hypnotic jangle-pop of "Jailbird" leading into the more reflective, sedate title track. Ward's vocals, always a hate-it-or-love-it bone of contention among listeners, has rarely sounded as accessible as it does here, his eternally-stuffy, cracked delivery guiding the songs like a wizened folk patriarch without sounding off-key.
Ward is someone with an appreciation for his inspirations, and the few choice covers on Hold Time do their originals more than sufficient justice. His soft take on Buddy Holly's "Rave On" is buttressed by the charming back-up work of guest Deschanel, and the wisely understated standard "Oh Lonesome Me" pairs Ward with legend Lucinda Williams in crafting an old-time country ballad that fits in well with its Americana surroundings.
But it's Ward's own considerable skills as a songwriter and producer that turn Hold Time into one of his best yet, with tunes like the remarkably catchy "To Save Me" (yes, even Ward is not averse to throwing a synthesizer or two into an album) to the poppy love-letter of "Epistemology," where Ward declares "finally, I found you without ever learning how to / I put the right foot in front of the left" to a blazing guitar riff. The man is a world-class musician, and while his arrangements are often better served under able singer, such as Deschanel, his Dylan-esque vibe and subtle delivery make for a different, albeit entirely enjoyable, experience.
Lyrically, Ward doesn't stray too far from what his predecessors made their fame on, those old musical touchstones of love, death, and everyday life. The nostalgic "Stars of Leo" pines for a country life away from the bustle of the city, while "Shangri-La" welcomes death's embrace as an opportunity to "see the expression on the face of my sweet lord." Lyrics are mostly secondary throughout Hold Time, but that isn't to say they weak. Rather, it is Ward's spot-on delivery that turns these present-day songs into what seem like folk relics.
At fourteen tracks, Hold Time might seem like a bloated record, but aside from one exception, most songs stay around the three-minute mark, and it's a testament to Ward's skills that the record seems much shorter than it actually is. Ward changes things up enough times to avoid becoming complacent, and in every aspect of his work there is the mark of a consummate professional, from the flawless guitar work on nearly every track to his tasteful selection of covers. Hold Time is the kind of record that could match up with its inspirations and fit in right next to them, the highest kind of praise for a man who has carried the folk torch proudly into the new millennium."
Phoning it in...
Steven R. Tanner | Santa Cruz Mountains | 02/20/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love M. Ward -- and this effort is better than most other recent releases by lesser musicians -- but his latest sounds very generic, uninspired and just plain "safe" to me. I give it a tepid 3 stars (after all, it is an M. Ward album), but I think it is his weakest effort by far.
It almost sounds like a parody of himself (similar to how Beck's "Guerra" played like a parody of his excellent "Odelay"). Just compare "Hold Time" to "Transfiguration of Vincent" -- admittedly a tough act to follow -- and the newer one pales in comparison.
For one thing, the production is way too slick and puts too much distance between M. Ward and his listeners. But his covers (including "Rave On") sound more like good karaoke than imaginative recreations, the way his Bowie cover "Let's Dance" really takes hold of the listener and even improves on the original.
I'm underwhelmed, but it's still a decent album."
armenianthunder | los angeles | 02/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"M. Ward's sixth album finds him with an increased public profile (having toured with Norah Jones) which of course brings more expectation from fans and critics. But the fact is that Ward hasn't changed his approach a whole lot over the years.
There is a brighter sound on this record that is no doubt a result of his experience and confidence as a producer, both of his own and others' works. The arrangements are more varied and ornate, but he's savvy enough to know that all the sonic bells-and-whistles are no substitute for a good song. The "She & Him" project was obviously a lot of fun, and some of that sense of fun pervades more upbeat songs like "Never Had Nobody Like You." And of course, there's lots of great guitar work, from lovely, intimate solo acoustic moments, to the fretwork fireworks on "To Save Me."
But above all, there are still a handful of truly great songs, which seem to come from the mists of time, bridging Tin Pan Alley, backporch Americana, and shambling indie rock, where the ghosts of Mississippi John Hurt and John Fahey mingle with contemporary influences and collaborators Vic Chesnutt, Lucinda Williams and Howe Gelb. And there are some that are just merely good, that sound similar to too many other past M. Ward songs, but familiarity, in this case, breeds comfort rather than contempt.
And of course, he is still has a brilliant ear for interpreting the work of others; the airy, delicious cover of Buddy Holly's "Rave On" is, for this listener, the absolute highlight of the record, just as his revelatory cover of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" first demonstrated how effortlessly he can take someone else's song and make it his own.
It may not be his best overall recording, but it still stands head and shoulders above most of what's on offer from today's "popular music" artists. And make no mistake, pop music is what M.Ward is about, just as Irving Berlin, Hank Williams, Lee Hazlewood and Brian Wilson were before him. I'm sure he doesn't mind being in that kind of company."