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M Ward | Duet for Guitar #2 (Ow Om/62TV/Les Disqus Manges Tout)
Released to little fanfare last year, care of Howe Gelb's Own Om records in the States and two discerning European labels, this brief but beautiful collection from Ward has all the lo-fi charm of Elliott Smith's self-titled and Either/Or collections (isn't the opening chord of Beautiful Car identical to that of Smith's Alameda?), the acoustic guitar virtuosity of David Grubbs and a voice that is reminiscent of both the grazed, cracked voice of Damien Jurado and the faltering Neil Young-isms of Grandaddy's Jason Lytle (the made-to-measure Fishing Boat Song recently covered by Modesto's finest). As he shows on Beautiful Car and the single, Scene from#12, Ward is also blessed with a gift for a memorable melody, these songs adding light to a record that spends much of its time behind the shades. The reverb clang and distant feedback that infiltrate the delicate Good News only focus the listener on the foreboding lyrics ("When I forget how to cry / I see you out alone at night / My heart explodes in light, in sky / And I want to close my eyes / When I forget how to give / I see you out alone with him / His heart explodes in light, in sky / And I want to close my eyes / And I want to see and bring good news to you"), the light then appears again in the form of the short instrumental The Crooked Spine. The folky It Won't Happen Twice has a Ben Harper rootsiness, Adam Selzer's mandolin and Carlos Forster's backing vocal adding extra layers of dialogue. Closing with an instrumental reprise of It Was A Beautiful Car, Duet For Guitars #2 is a disarmingly assured debut. Plans are afoot to release a second album in the none-too-distant future, this time with a UK release in the pipeline. Grab your copy of Duets now so you can be among the smug elite come the inevitable Mojo/Uncut interest.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001