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The WORD on Columbia Arts
BY KEVIN OLIVER
|There are people who play music for a hobby, and there are others who try to make a living at it before giving up and trying something else. For local songwriter and bluesman Rev. Marv Ward, playing music is just what he does: His first gig came at 10 years old, and he became a professional by the time
he turned 16. Forty years later, Ward’s still going strong.
“I’ve actually retired twice from music,” Ward admits, acknowledging that the time off didn’t stick for long either time. “In 1977 I decided to get a day job and came [to the] South; one phone call later I went right back on the road playing guitar for The John Rodgers Experience — he was the original baritone singer with The Platters.
After that I stayed in Myrtle Beach for a while, moved here and retired again.”
Ward releases I Should Know Better, only his third album in the past dozen years, this week. It’s more wide-ranging in styles than the typical blues sounds he is known for, he says.
“This project spans a period of 40 years, with one song from 1971 and a couple others from each decade since then up to the present.”
The latest, Ward says, was written last summer. The songs are not a retrospective of his past so much as they are an odds-and-sods batch of songs he didn’t really know what to do with.
“I had these songs I had never recorded, but [I] always thought they were interesting and I didn’t want them to get lost,” Ward says, “That’s why the album is so diverse.”
That’s the most intriguing aspect of this new release: it reveals Ward as much more than just the frequently seen advocate of blues music in the Midlands.
“I consider myself a songwriter more than a guitar player or singer,” Ward says. “My last two albums were all originals, too.”
The title cut is a perfect example of the different sounds present on the album, with a classic, blues-based rock groove and ’60s girl group harmonies punctuating a lyric about learning from mistakes. It segues into a The Band-like folk ballad with synthesized accordion-sounding accents, then makes way for the country-rock vibe of “Virginia.” the most memorable tune on the album, “Tennessee Whiskey,” is also its oldest, Ward says.
“I wrote that one in 1971 sitting in a room in Newport, R.I., drinking whiskey,” he says. “I was playing music full time and recently divorced from my first wife.”
The song is one of those David Allan Coe-style barroom bits of camaraderie, with vivid late-night imagery, perfect for a closing time sing-along with friends before stumbling out the door. Ward gets his some of his own friends into the act: David Hane of Devils in Disguise and Bentz Kirby sing guest verses; Mike Edge plays guitar on the track, too.
“That was just going to be a hidden bonus track,” Ward says, “When I got David and Bentz to sing on it, I didn’t want to hide it any more.”
Ward’s presence in the local blues and acoustic scene in Columbia means that he was able to enlist a number of other talented friends for the recording of this album, including harmonica player Mike Fore, mandolin player Steve Bennett, slide guitarist Rusty Davis, and Jenn McCallister and May Kirby on harmony vocals.
“I’m just lucky to have really good friends,” Ward says. “It’s always surprising to hear the finished product, and the performances they did were outstanding.”
Add the core group of Ward on guitar with Mike Mahoney on bass and Vic Scaricamazza on drums (“a rhythm section tight as a gnat’s ass
stretched over a rain barrel,” Ward quips), and it all adds up to a full-band sound filling out these leftover nuggets from a decades-long career in making music.
"Love Like You Never Been Burned"
is still available.
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Rev. Marv Ward's new music and classic R&B. What "Love Like You Never Been Burned"
comes out is a gospel and soul-inflected combination of Delta and Piedmont styles that's tailor-made for the barrooms and juke joints where blues began and still thrives to this day.
K. Oliver, The Freetimes
.....The words that make up the title track are just a portion of the advice that the song gives. Ya see, if you really want to get through life's strife, then.... you gotta work like you don't need the money, be happy with the karma you've earned, you gotta dance like nobody's watching and "Love Like You Never been Burned". Now that's a mouthful. Between the very advisable lyrics, the intensity with which they're sung, the funky rhythm and the rippin' sax riffs, I'm thinking I just heard this years song of the year.......
BY PETER "BLEWZZMAN" LAURO, © August 2009
To read the rest of the review visit www.mary4music.com
Veteren Blues Guitarist Rev. Marv Ward grew up in the small town of Lorton, Virginia. He played his first gig at 10 and started performing professionally at age 16. He's played in literally dozens of bands over the past 40 years and has secured his place among bluesmen with his straightforward no-nonsense blues style. It's a little bit Delta, a little bit Piedmont, a whole lot of R&B, but mostly, it's straight up Rev. Marv Ward.