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M. Ward: Hold Time

[Merge Records]

By · February 18th, 2009 · Short Takes

Portland-based Folk artist M. Ward conjures 14 new, beautifully composed tracks of whispered spells and drowsy lullabies with his sixth studio album.

Following Post-War, released in 2006, Hold Time is an emotionally-charged blend of Folk ballads sweetened by Ward’s honeysoaked vocals and master finger-picking which provides some catchy, easy listening. The album is unique, dynamic and diverse from first track to last.

While some songs, including “Never Had Nobody Like You,” are drawn out with a rustic, vintage sound of the early ‘60s, others, like “For Beginners,” ring with shimmering clean guitar progressions and crisp vocal harmonies that are comparable to those of Simon and Garfunkel.

Poetic lyrics of love, death and journey illuminate the songs. “Birth is just a chorus/ Death is just a verse/ In the great song of spring that the mockingbirds sing,” chants Ward in “Blake’s View,” an allusion to William Blake’s poem “The Grave.” Ward’s enchanting vocals and lyrics are complemented by upbeat hand-claps, guitar slides, maracas, delicate cymbal brushes and pounding piano on various tracks, creating a deep-cutting, eclectic sound that is not just heard, but felt.

Guest performers include Zooey Deschanel, Jason Lytle, Lucinda Williams and Tom Hagerman. Grade: A-



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