We took a break from the Canadiana for the time being and delved back into an “oldie but a goodie” around our house, HRH‘s ‘Echoes‘ album by Pink Floyd. I’m switching gears yet again and now listening to another treat that Uncle Lance threw our way, the ‘Skeleton Crew‘ album by Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. Serious.
Here’s what you need to know: the band consists of singer and songwriter Madisen, 26, and his 63-year-old mother Ruth Ward. You can’t make this stuff up. Apparently, they’ve gone from performing in coffee houses in Independence, Missouri, to playing big theaters and making international television appearances in little more than nine months. This is their debut album which is anchored on the time-honored strumming and picking of two acoustic guitars and excellent bittersweet character portraits of the dispossessed and the unheroic. Just my kind off music.
Uncle Lance knows me all too well and the album is absolutely excellent. And the record itself is a pretty yellow-orange color which pleases HRH. Total win-win. It’s a record that oozes charm and old-fashioned simplicity. There is nothing earth-shattering present other than high-quality songs by a pair of fine musicians whose family connection give them an affinity that others can only dream of. All these elements are nowhere more present than in the wonderful opener ‘Live by the Water‘ where Ward’s sonorous tenor and the sterling backing by his mother, come together like cheese on toast.
Other tracks present like the well-trailed ‘Silent Movies‘ emote such enthusiasm that you are swept along by its sheer energy. Some of the songs are more reflective not least the solemn deep blues of ‘Undertake and Juniper‘ which of the standouts on the album which is utterly compelling. To fair wherever you drop your needle on this record rich rewards will certainly follow. The country shuffle of ‘Yellow Taxi‘ demands a small stage, a hot night, a good supply of a local brew plus an audience with a “ear for a fine tune” and a willingness to sing-along. Others, like the slow wintry ballad ‘Dead Daffodils‘ alternatively, appear to tap into deeper folk roots with Madison’s vocal scoring on all counts for its range of emotions and wonderful storytelling. Finally the longest song present ‘Down in Mississippi‘ is the album’s tour de force evoking the era of civil rights and Jim Crow. It’s fun and it’s insightful.