From a guy who doesn’t know the meaning of the word fake, but is most certainly blessed with a desired edge, the projectile career of Simon Stanley Ward takes a massive leap forward with the release of his self-titled debut full length album. Now no longer the sole domain of its multitude of presence-based activities in the South East of England, the music of Simon is now extended into many other listening arenas via a record rock solid with a genuine sound ratcheting up the twang barometer. There is also a tantalising yearning within a voice ripe with honesty which continually digs deep into the core of rock n’ roll infused country music.
While this album is no homage to the rhetoric of alt-country rock, there is a definite alternative twist to the ten tracks that circle your senses with an intriguing motion prior to landing right on their intended spot. Right from a curious opener which succeeds in immediately raising your eyebrows, its arousal tendencies take a while to sink in as the record carefully assesses an acute parking spot within your collection. ‘The Monster Song’ is that splendidly surreal opener spiced up with some heavy bass twang before making way for a trio of numbers intently raising the heat. ‘Trouble Somewhere’ with the fabulous catchy line ‘when drink from this lonely fountain’ is where the killer melody kicks in and proves to be the tasty filler between the conventional rocker ‘100 Days in Heaven’ and the neo traditional ‘Please Excuse Me (While I Feel Sorry for Myself’. Just perhaps when a little breather is required, Simon comes up trumps with a slice of pure mellow in the album’s pivotal track ‘Another Page’.
As the page is turned over, or to be more precise the vinyl version (if it materialises) is flipped, the songs continue to ignite that eternal flame of a classic sound. The perfect pairing of the pedal steel driven aching number ‘Behind Closed Doors’ and the wit energised ‘American Voice’ prove the focal points of the album’s second phase. The latter combines humour and poignancy by proclaiming Simon’s love for country music without the experience of drinking excessive whiskey, listening to whippoorwills or having fights. Intoxication by the romance and an extraordinary talent for soulful interpretation is a sufficient combination to make this a very good country record.
Inevitably in today’s climate such a left field production is a sure fire fit to be courted by the Americana contingent and the final three tracks to mention throw a touch of diversity into the mix. ‘Obvious to You’ and ‘Homesick’ both draw influence from the rock n’ roll side of country music and race along with a hearty beat. Album closer ‘Over Here’ possesses a deeper groove than its track list predecessors and signs off the record on a slightly lower key note with the organ making an effective appearance on a lengthy near six minute piece, pushing the whole playing time just short of the three quarter hour mark.
Hefty praise is fully warranted on Simon Stanley Ward for channelling his style, acumen and heart into a record which resonates with acres of impressive effect. The challenge is now to raise the profile and show a wider market that a sincere brand of high quality and intelligent country music is bubbling under within the UK’s vibrant indie scene.