Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ward Thomas - From Where We Stand WTW Music

It was only a matter of time until Nashville spread their net from promoting contemporary country music in the UK to look a little deeper into what home grown promise there is. While it is far from unique for a UK act to have their sights on country music stardom, Ward Thomas have come up with a package that matches up well with its similar styled output from Music City. Make no mistake this is unabated country pop done well and the siblings have hit on a formula which will give them every chance of exploiting their target markets.

The size of the home market is yet to be determined but ambition is high that the mainstream can be permeated by national radio airplay. This would be a great shot in the arm for the genre in the UK as FROM WHERE WE STAND has sufficient country merit to distance itself from the run of the mill chart mediocrity. Barely out of their teens, the twins Catherine and Lizzy from rural Hampshire, clearly understand where their influences lie and the direction they want to take their music in. Obviously the record has had a huge boost by being produced under the guidance of Chris Rodriguez and Bobby Blazier, both Nasvhille luminaries. The result is a fresh and spritely bunch of tunes showcasing Ward Thomas as no mere pretenders.

Of course there are work in progress elements to Ward Thomas and one of these is being rectified by hitting the road with a load of live dates. Perhaps a Maverick Festival appearance sandwiched between a host of hardened Americana acts highlighted an element of inexperience and a little on the light side but subsequent plays of their debut album reveal a talent to build on this and a subtle diversity to their music.

A recent EP release proved to be a tantalising taster before this 12 track 50 minute record hits the market. All four featured songs on the EP make the album including an interesting cover, ‘Caledonia’ by veteran Scottish folk performer Dougie MacLean. As you would expect from an album with such pretensions there are a number of brash pop songs designed to engage a wider audience but I prefer to home in on three tracks which highlight a more substantial side of their talents. ‘Wasted Words’ is the stand out track from my perspective, mixing harmony vocals with a hint of mandolin, steel and fiddle to reach out across the country divide. Following closely behind are a raucous piano led honky tonk belter ‘Town Called Ugely’ which rattles along with a considerable beat and a passionate emotional ballad ‘From Where I Stand’.

The latter sees the album title revert to the individual personal pronoun to give the topic of their parents’ divorce a more poignant angle. Piano, pedal steel and an uplifting guitar solo grace this track that captures the pain of the moment, a not uncommon trait of real heart stricken country music. These three tracks are the real gems of an album not unexpectedly wrapped in a combination of up tempo radio friendly numbers including the safe flagship songs ‘Push the Stride’ and ‘The Good and the Right’. Of the album’s lighter side, I have more of a leaning towards ‘Guest List’ with its unashamed tilt towards the works of Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood as does the nostalgic anthem qualities to ‘Way Back When’, if nostalgia is allowed for someone so young!

It is to the album’s credit that the four remaining tracks ‘Footnotes (Happy Ending)’, ‘Try’ ‘Company’ and ‘Take That Train’ never give the impression that the record is being filled or scrambling around for songs without really hitting the peaks of the classier parts. Whether Catherine and Lizzy subsequently major on their song writing, vocal capabilities or musical arrangement, they have announced their arrival on the music scene with a record full of all three qualities. FROM WHERE WE STAND will find its own niche in the market and Ward Thomas are set to make their mark on the UK country music scene, perhaps a little wider in prevailing circumstances. 

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