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M. Ward

M. Ward (photo by Sarah Cass, PR)

M. Ward (photo by Sarah Cass, PR)

by

More Rain
M. Ward
Merge Records

This year is proving to be a very busy one for Matt Ward, who records as M. Ward. He was on the road as Jenny Lewis’s special guest on her recent tour celebrating the tenth anniversary of her first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. Then, he emerged as the producer of Mavis Staples’ latest album, Livin’ On A High Note. Now, M. Ward returns to his own career with More Rain, his eighth solo album. More Rain is an introspective collection of songs that fits Ward’s lo-fi musical makeup perfectly.

Despite its title, not every song matches the characteristics of a gloomy, damp setting. For every song that possesses the characteristics of a grey, rainy day, there’s a punchy pop song to offset that mood. Lazy numbers like "Pirate Dial" or “Slow Driving Man,” which features some tasteful guitar from Ward, are balanced by the bouncy rocker “Time Won’t Wait,” which features Neko Case on backing vocals.

More Rain was created over the course of three years, from 2012 until 2015, and was initially going to be an album harkening back to early rock and roll’s doo-wop era, with Ward layering all vocals himself. A couple of remnants of that initial plan are found in the songs "Little Baby" and  “I’m Listening (Child’s Theme),” a gentle piece that drifts by on a mood reminiscent of the Flamingos’ 1959 rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Also fitting in with the album’s retro concept is a cover of the Beach Boys' 1965 song, “You’re So Good To Me.”

Ward gets plenty of help on More Rain. In addition to Case, Ward taps into the talents of his Monsters of Folk bandmate Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), Joey Spampinato (formerly of NRBQ), Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, the Baseball Project) and Peter Buck (formerly of R.E.M. as well as McCaughey’s part-time musical partner). In addition, k.d. lang and the Secret Sisters provide vocal assistance on “Little Baby” and “I’m Going Higher” respectively.

With More Rain, M. Ward has delivered a strong set of songs and the album fits snuggly next to his previous outings. It is a welcome addition to M. Ward’s recorded canon.