Saturday, 16 January 2010

Jason Ward - Graceful Bow EP Review (2010)

Everyone’s favourite melancholy folk singing West Virginian Jason Ward has picked up were he left off in 2009 with a new seven song EP showcasing some of the material from his new album. Unlike last year’s understated masterpiece Almighty Row, Graceful Bow is more organic, filled with cold yet vibrant acoustic guitars. And of course Ward himself provides a unique vocal melody of bleak poetic musing.

Bless You dives straight into the vocals with “How horrible are you…Your face is stuck with the same expression…” and is delivered with a thick slice of venomous irony, describing a love-hate relationship. Pretty Nice Things starts much darker, the edgy strings complimenting Ward’s stark deliberate vocal style. Not So Lonely shares the same softness as Bless You coupled with a more upbeat, almost joyful chorus. Ward has such a wonderful tone, precise and controlled and always within it’s own boundaries. A strong opening trio.

Here’s Looking at You (From Behind) is the best song on Graceful Bow. The vocal production fills the sound perfectly, turning it into a duet. “I don’t think it’s fair. That’s just how I feel. I tell you the truth and I get a raw deal” is a lyric that Mark Everett or Elliot Smith would shy away from. It is brilliant song writing from start to finish. Ain’t No Way starts with some shaky vocals but soon the tune emerges, proving that Ward is a solid diverse vocalist, fragile and with an honest vulnerability. The last minute harmonica is a gentle surprise. It’s hardly Dylan but fades before it’s welcome is outstayed. But it soon returns for the start of By Now (You Should Know) which rambles quietly and is the obvious weak song even if it does try to do something different.

Graceful Bow finishes strong. Dark In Here closes the EP with another gorgeous vocal, sounding like a four part harmony from Crosby Stills, Nash and Young sitting round a campfire looking up to the stars. But it’s just one voice. Mesmerising.

Jason Ward has set aside much of the cold edgy menace of Almighty Row to return to some roots with Graceful Bow. Free from self-imposed constraint and restraint, the seven songs have a freedom to breath. Graceful Bow is more evidence that Jason Ward will soon be discovered in the mainstream.
-- CS

No comments: