M Ward - Under Cover

M. Ward is best known for his rough, gravelly singing voice, sweet, modern folk songs, and his immaculate sense of production. Each of his past four albums, dating back to 2001’s End of Amnesia right through 2006’s Post-War, are seamless collections of dusty little folk treasures. You can’t make a claim that any one is better than the rest, as all sound like a continuation of one great collection of songs.

What doesn’t get mentioned enough is how affective Ward is at covering the songs of other artists. On all his albums, save End of Amnesia, Ward tackles a song or two by another artist, and the result has never been short of stellar. Ward always makes the songs fit his style, sometimes completely re-imagining the music to something that barely resembles where it came from.

Here’s a sampling of some of the covers that have appeared on Ward’s records:

MP3 - Let's Dance - (David Bowie)
Stripping Bowie’s super-glossy 80’s original down to it’s bare essentials, Ward takes a song that has no business resembling folk into a song I can no longer hear any other way. Appears on 2003’s Transfiguration of Vincent.

MP3 - You Still Believe In Me - (The Beach Boys)
This instrumental begins Transistor Radio in a disarmingly understated way. Ward’s acoustic guitar mimics the beautiful vocal melody most prominent as the original fades out. And if you don’t have Pet Sounds there may be something wrong with you.

MP3 - Sweethearts on Parade - (C. Lombardi/C. Newman)
This is a jazz standard, having been performed by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, and Nat King Cole, among many others. The mix here of traditional folk with modern sounds proves no one, possibly save Califone, does this sound better. This also appears on Transistor Radio.

MP3 - To Go Home - (Daniel Johnston)
Last year’s Post War was another great collection of songs, but this one stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. With Neko Case wailing in the background, Ward and band attack this song, giving it more of a polished indie-rock sheen than anything he has attempted before. One of the best songs of 2006.

MP3 - Sadie (Joanna Newsom). - (Joanna Newsom)
Joanna Newsom’s original is filled with a child-like whimsy that Ward isn’t capable of. Instead he converts the song to one that is weary, knowing, and mature, in the process giving it more of a sense of purpose. And when he sings her line “this is an old song, these are old blues, and this is not my tune, but it’s mine to use” he summarizes the history of American folk music in a way Newsom isn’t quite yet ready to do.

MP3 - Pale Blue Eyes - (The Velvet Underground)
This is from a European live recording called “Live Music & the Voice of Strangers”. It dates back to just before the release of Transfiguration of Vincent.

And finally there was a recent benefit single, a remake of CCR’s classic “Green River”. Available only on itunes, this song was recorded as a benefit for MercyCorps:


green river - benefit for mercy corps

purchase the single from itunes online.

Hear more of M Ward’s music at his myspace or at www.mwardmusic.com

Seriously, buy all of these albums at Amazon, Insound, or the mp3s at Emusic.

Visit Merge Records for more information about M. Ward’s music


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