M Ward: Think of Spring review – a spectral tribute to Billie Holiday

(Anti-)
The ever-questing Matthew Ward turns his minimalist attentions to Holiday’s lush 1958 album Lady in Satin

West coast singer-songwriter Matthew Ward stalks Americana circles in many guises; as solo artist, guitarist to Norah Jones, collaborator with the likes of Arcade Fire, and half of pop duo She & Him. He records only in analogue, and his restless yet obsessive nature – this is his 11th solo album – means there are always fresh, left-field pastures in which to gambol, and unusual guitar tunings to master.

Arriving mere months after his recent Migration Stories, with its sci-fi undercurrents and squeaky synths, this tribute to Billie Holiday is a very different creature. All but one track is taken from Holiday’s 1958 album Lady in Satin, a scoop of the great American songbook delivered with a 40-piece orchestra. Ward comes at the songs from the opposite direction, his soft vocals set against intricately picked acoustic guitar, brash numbers such as All the Way rendered downbeat and bluesy. He is no torch singer; most often, Ward recalls John Fahey or Robert Johnson, but the spectral, night-time atmosphere captures the hurt and weariness of Holiday’s delivery. Proceeds go to Covid relief, which helps explain the title. Think of Spring; aren’t we all.

Listen to You’ve Changed by M Ward

Contributor

Neil Spencer

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill review – Audra McDonald is Billie Holiday
A bad gig for Billie Holiday is a great one for Audra McDonald as she embodies the tortured jazz singer one wild night in Philadelphia

Susannah Clapp

02, Jul, 2017 @6:55 AM

Article image
The United States vs Billie Holiday review – Andra Day's film all the way
As the blues singer, Day is magnetic in Lee Daniels’s often chaotic biopic, built around a speculative romance between Holiday and a government agent

Mark Kermode

28, Feb, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Streaming: the best jazz films
A new Billie Holiday documentary prompts a look at the films that best capture the spirit of the jazz greats

Guy Lodge

14, Nov, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
Charles Lloyd & the Marvels with Lucinda Williams: Vanished Gardens review – odd couple hit it off
(Blue Note)

Neil Spencer

08, Jul, 2018 @7:00 AM

M Ward: A Wasteland Companion – review
Back in solo mode, Matthew Ward delivers another fine set of Americana, writes Phil Mongredien

Phil Mongredien

07, Apr, 2012 @11:05 PM

M Ward – review
The intense showman ranges through a set of powerful songs that sound like anxious inner monologues externalised, writes Ian Gittins

Ian Gittins

04, Jul, 2012 @5:00 PM

Article image
Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth review – a celebration of a true original
A revealing ‘meditation’ on Billie Holiday focuses on her talent, rather than the tragedy

Neil Spencer

03, May, 2015 @5:00 AM

Article image
Billie Holiday: Lady Day review – sheer unstudied elegance
This centenary collection captures the peerless Billie Holiday in her 20s

Dave Gelly

12, Apr, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Laurence Pike: Holy Spring review – cosmic drum trips
(The Leaf Label)

Neil Spencer

12, May, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Billie review – a truer, historical spin on the great Billie Holiday
Exploitation and harassment, not ‘inner demons’, brought down the singer, argues this documentary that showcases her superb voice

Peter Bradshaw

12, Nov, 2020 @11:00 AM