Friday, November 27, 2009

Number Nine Hold Time

#9 Hold Time – M. Ward 2009

1. "For Beginners"
2. "Never Had Nobody Like You"
3. "Jailbird"
4. "Hold Time"
5. "Rave On" (Norman Petty/Bill Tilghman/Sonny West)
6. "To Save Me"
7. "One Hundred Million Years"
8. "Stars of Leo"
9. "Fisher of Men"
10. "Oh Lonesome Me" (Don Gibson)
11. "Epistemology"
12. "Blake's View"
13. "Shangri-La"
14. "Outro (I'm a Fool to Want You)" (Joel Herron/Frank Sinatra/Jack Wolf) – 3:47

“We come and we go a weepin’ and a wailin' our heads in the hands of the nurse.”

M. Ward is the man. Equal parts songwriter, guitar player, singer (I think so anyway), and studio whiz. By the release of Hold Time, his 6th studio album proper, he had elevated his status to being a poster child for “indie” music (what is "indie" music anyway?). He is perfectly just behind the scenes and from what I’ve read I think that’s the way he prefers it.

Hold Time just sounds great, an absolute pleasure to listen to. The first few spins I was caught up in the sound of the thing, the production, and the way all of it comes together in such a good way. Slowly the impact of the songwriting came and I realized I was listening to a pretty cohesive spiritual statement.

From One Hundred Million Years:

“This love between you and I is older than that burning ball of fire up in the sky and the gale that fills our sail”

From Fisher of Men:

“He’s a fisher of men and he’s as wise as a prizefighter. He’s like a soul barter buying souls on down the great divide.”

From Absolute Beginners:

“When you’re absolute beginners, it’s a panoramic view from her majesty Mount Zion and the kingdom is for you.”

From Shangri-La:

“And I cannot wait to see the expression on the face of my sweet Lord.”

From Blake’s View:

“I say death is just a door we’ll be reunited on the other side.”

So in a way Hold Time is a really listenable my-kind-of-gospel record. Something I can reflect on and lean against and find comfort in. The message isn’t overt, far from it with songs off the radar from this “spiritual” vibe like a great cover of Buddy Holly’s Rave On and an almost radio friendly Never Had Nobody Like You this spirituality flows underground but having listened to it enough (once again because it is just so enjoyable to listen to) the beautiful underlying vision that is there is revealed to me.

The songs on Hold Time are only 2 to 3 minutes except for a slow drawn out version of Don Gibson’s Oh Lonesome Me, it is amazing how much Ward can get into these songs and how much I get out of them.

The one downer for me is actually this cover of Oh Lonesome Me, a duet with Lucinda Williams. I like it fine enough, but the energy and feel is out of place on Hold Time. Would have made for a fantastic extra promo track somewhere, but when Lucinda Williams helps out I kind of understand the song finding its way onto the record.

Hold Time is a terrific recording, and a stealthily moving one too. M Ward is the man.


  1. 9. The Strokes - Is this It.

    I workout more to this album than any other. Rock N Roll done right. Raw, new, exciting.

  2. #9- The Dixie Chicks- Home (2002)

    This record I wore out. I have to admit, I was a "Chicks" fan from the first record- I actually used to listen to county radio- but then it became too unbearable. And while I was skeptical of them at first, they proved me wrong by their deft knowledge of their instruments (they can tear it up) and equally stellar choice of songs- this is something that they have remained fairly consistent of.

    "Home" was a big one for me which came out around the same time as "O Brother Where Art Thou" and when Bluegrass was becoming more acceptable in the mainstream. It embraced this more acoustic, less "pop-country" sound and did so with reverence, while still remaining commercially viable. They maintained their biting humor on songs like "White Trash Wedding" and "Tortured, Tangled Hearts"; and made beautiful statements with Tim O'Brien's "More Love", Patty Griffin's "Truth No. 2", and Bruce Robison's "Travelin' Soldier".

    I am a HUGE fan of Natalie Maines. I used to drive in my car, cover one ear & try my dangdest to sing like her. I still sometimes change the words to the song "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" to say "Godspeed, Annbelle, Sweet Dreams Annabelle" and sing it to my daughter at bedtime.

  3. The Strokes - I see them all over all the decade lists.. I want to come at this clean.. This was a debut right? How have their follow ups been???

    D.C. - I always admire artists that are able to be genuine and sell lots of records (For me it's Dwight Yoakam... so good and still charts). I really love Travelin' Soldier too.

  4. Oh Dwight- there's nobody that can twang like him! Love him too!

  5. I have M Ward's first album (End of Amnesia) and I really enjoy it. For some reason though, I haven't followed up on his other stuff. I'll take this as a hearty recommendation to do so!