Gordon Thomas Ward - Providence
The first song on Gordon Thomas Ward’s Providence EP, “Acadia Lament – Names Into Stones”, opens with a violin flourish soon giving way to meditative acoustic guitar. The playing has pastoral qualities, but there’s likewise a moody lyricism. The instrumental portion of the song gives way to “Names Into Stones” around the two minute mark and kicks off with inspired drumming dueling with assertive electric guitar. Ward has an impressively clear, emotive voice and his lyrical talents are apparent from the first. There’s a tasty electric guitar solo near the song’s end placing an emphatic exclamation point on the track. There’s a low key country rock amble defining the EP’s second track “Destiny” and the title implies gravitas Ward is more than capable of carrying off. This is a much more sedate offering than the first song, but the song’s rock drumming provides a charge of urgency that enhances the song.
“Just One More” has some light vocal harmonies making it particularly memorable, but it goes deeper thanks to the personal nature of the song. It never risks sentimentality however and, ultimately, leaves listeners with a much sweeter feeling than bittersweet, though it is tinged with light touches of regret any adult capable of introspection will connect with. A surprising bluesy edge emerges with the song “The Horseman”, particularly in its jagged slide guitar lines, but the song’s musical pedigree is wider than mere pastiche as Ward adds violin as well. He doesn’t sing self-consciously, as so many do when they explore blues influences, but pursues the same vocal line defining the earlier tracks and imbues his excellent lyrics with the right amount of emotion to help deepen their impact. The EP’s final song, “One Kiss”, is a purer folk tune than we’ve heard thus far, but it’s further infused with pop color thanks to its beguiling melodic excellence and some discreet accompaniment added color to his voice and acoustic guitar work. The personal qualities of this EP are intimate without ever being uncomfortable or clichéd and even its heartbreaking aspects are presented with warmth.
Gordon Thomas Ward works with some talented collaborators to realize his latest release, an EP preview of his forthcoming full length Providence, but the heart of the collection is obviously his fully invested connection to the material. Some of the material eschews looking at our modern world and issues, but Ward is unafraid to tackle some of society’s most pressing dilemmas with a poetic and wise spirit unlike much of what you’ll hear from similar artists. His chief collaborator on this project, engineer and co-producer Eric Troyer, proves to be an excellent artistic foil for Ward’s work and the five songs included with this EP are, undoubtedly, representative of the high level this partnership aspired to from the first. Despite its status as a preview of a longer work, this EP stands on its own as an impressive achievement. It will engage you both intellectually and emotionally.