M Ward: A Wasteland Companion – review

(Bella Union)

The riddle asks: if you replace the head of your broom, then replace the handle, have you still got the broom you started with? So it is with M Ward and his relationship to American music in that period between Elvis leaving the army and the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show. Ward's music takes the shape of the declining years of rock'n'roll and of Brill Building pop, then removes its constituent parts and replaces them with newer versions: it's not a retooling, so much as a careful restoration job designed to make it sound like something meant to last for ever. Is it still just early-60s pop, or is it something timeless and new? Ward's seventh album finds him mixing up the country-blues picking of the title track with a rockabilly-noir portrayal of the musician's life on Me and My Shadow. Ward's partner in She & Him, Zooey Deschanel, duets on Sweetheart, but Ward's voice, a little cracked, but also easy and beckoning, is the sweeter.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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