Ward-Thomas - From Where We Stand
I first came across Ward-Thomas a couple of years ago and have watched as the then teenage twins have developed and matured into one of the most promising new British country music acts for years with the potential to take America and the world by storm. Lizzy and Catherine Ward-Thomas are from deepest Hampshire, yet listening to this excellent debut album, you’d swear that they’d been raised somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line on a musical diet of modern country music. Possessing a raw innocence and straightforward charm that makes them terrifically appealing, the young singers’ tremendous talent and highly distinctive vocal performance is on full display throughout these dozen songs. Far better than average voices and the excellent production of Nashville’s Chris Rodriguez and Bobby Blazier highlights the set. Best of all, however, are the songs … mainly co-written by the girls with Matt Greaves and Ann Bailey. The only outside song is their version of Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia, a delicate, largely acoustic ballad with a frail female lead vocal and poetic but grounded lyrical content, they put their very own stamp on this well-covered song.
Ward-Thomas has already made an impact on BBC Radio with both The Good And The Right and Push For the Stride, having made the Radio 2 playlist. Chiming country-rock guitars, massed harmonies, sing-along chorus, leg twitchin’ rhythm and youthful energy marks the latter whilst The Good And The Right, the most straight-ahead country tune, is the one that really takes advantage of the girls’ powerful vocal style. They also show-off their mastery of a thoughtful and sensitive ballad with From Where I Stand, the combination of voices here is heavenly, with Lizzy and Catherine’s equally intimate, equally weary voices trading lead and harmony in true duo form emanating a bittersweet memory with Dan Dugmore’s ethereal pedal steel being the cream on the top. Heartbreak never sounded so good as when delivered by this pair of talented young ladies in cowboy boots. You’ll be equally mesmerised by the combination of soulful vocal harmonies and skilful yet seemingly effortless musical arrangement on the superbly written Wasted Words. This is modern country music on par with anything that the major Nashville stars are turning out.
Their use of language combines both sophistication and simplicity. Like the best songwriters, they utilise real-life scenarios as with Take The Train which is based on an over-heard conversation turned into a compelling story-song. Try begins as a confessional piano ballad then develops into a melodic anthem for living a life on one’s own terms. They show off a more dynamic edgy side with Town Called Ugley. Classic-sounding country-rock with twanging guitars and deep dark rhythm sections the drums go ballistic, the piano player tickles the ivories and the guitarists snap, crackle and pop. Ward-Thomas have been out on the road, touring all across the UK and also working doing gigs and showcases around Nashville and other music venues in America’s deep south, where their uniquely ‘British-take on country music’ has been well-received. They have effectively cast aside their somewhat reserved stage manner and emerged as witty, highly professional performers who understand the dynamics of effective presentation. In short there’s a new depth of maturity to be seen in Ward-Thomas. This very cool little album is an impressive debut disc chock-full of lyrical maturity and memorably melodic songwriting. It marks them out as a singular talent to keep an eye on in today’s rapidly expanding international country music landscape.