Mike Ward knows the nation’s times are a-changin,’ especially with today’s midterm elections.
In response, the Americana singer-songwriter encourages people to raise their voice and chase their freedom on his latest sociopolitical EP, Troubled Times.
“From my standpoint, I’m hoping it will help people look in the mirror and ask themselves some of these questions in terms of raising your own voice and paying attention to what’s truth and what’s not truth,” said Ward, who’s based in Detroit. “That’s basically the theme of ‘Wishing Well,’ and it’s the subtle theme of ‘WWTFS.’”
The contemplative opener, “Wishing Well,” advocates protecting individual rights and free speech alongside determined acoustic guitar and solemn organ.
Ward sings, “Stand alone, stand apart / Take a deep look into your heart / Because these are troubled times / These lives of yours and mine / So seek the proof in the face of the untruth / In the face of all the untruth.”
The Lansing-Grand Rapids, Michigan Americana-folk quintet of Tommy McCord (vocals, acoustic guitar), Danielle Gyger (vocals, fiddle, acoustic guitar), Timmy Rodriguez (vocals, electric and upright bass), Dan O’Brien (vocals, electric and upright bass) and Adam Aymor (pedal steel) ventures through life’s peaks and valleys on their latest anecdotal album.
“One of the big differences between [2021’s] Volume 1 and Volume 2is that on Volume 2all of the original written songs were brand new when we did them,” said McCord, who also produced and released the album via GTG Records.
“That’s very much reflected in the material because that’s what was going on in our lives; some of us were getting married, and Timmy and Dan both had kids in 2020. It wasn’t on purpose, but that very much is true.”
Alongside Volume 2’s storied lyrics and bucolic setting, The Wild Honey Collective beautifully weaves timeless acoustic instrumentation with rootsy sensibilities. It’s a refreshing listen while spending time with family and friends at a lakeside cabin or trekking through hilly, sprawling landscapes.
“By Volume 2, we were a gigging band when we made the album, and I think that really shows,” McCord said. “It feels more like a band than a studio project. We’re just kind of driving forward with that now.”
“When you play in punk bands, the idea of recording cover songs is very taboo unless if you’re making fun of it or something. But in the world of traditional and folk music, that’s kind of part of it … interpreting other people’s songs and the Great American Songbook,” said McCord, who also plays in Drinking Mercury and The Plurals.
“That’s something I’ve learned more as I’ve played is this idea of respecting and learning from other songwriters … it’s really important. It’s less about my ego and more about what are good songs.”
For The Prickly Pair, a pandemic-induced film immersion provided an instant gateway to 1950s-era New Orleans.
The Nashville, Tennessee alt-country duo of Mason Summit (vocals, guitars, keys) and Irene Greene (vocals) landed in the throes of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and penned their latest Southern Gothic single, “The Long Parade,” as an ode to Tennessee Williams.
“We actually wrote that song for a Tennessee Williams tribute my mom was putting on as part of her literary series, Library Girl,” said Summit about the 1951 film based on Williams’ 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
“We often get inspired by dialogue or visuals in movies, and we were taking notes while watching the film adaptation of ‘Streetcar.’”
Throughout “The Long Parade,” The Prickly Pair become entangled in the heartbreak and betrayal of Blanche, Stanley, Stella and Mitch. Twangy lap steel, nonchalant acoustic guitar, strolling bass, somber keys, steady drums and glistening cymbals plead for serenity and closure.
Summit and Greene sing, “Pearls before swine/Pull the wool over my eyes/‘Cause I can’t tell the truth/From my own lies.”
“It’s more of an attempt to capture the overall vibe, but I think people see themselves in these characters,” Summit said. “I hope people can relate to the song in a similar way. I personally find the chorus very cathartic to play.”
The Brighton, Michigan country-folk singer-songwriter and guitarist shares hopeful tales of navigating life’s seasonal changes on her adventurous new album, When the Sun Comes Shining Through.
“There’s a lot of movement, and there’s a lot of leaving one state and going into another state. I write from listening to life and listening to myself, and that’s just what was there,” Thoburn said.
“It’s somebody who’s able to look back and be here, yet still be able to bring some perspective, hopefulness and realism, too. The journey continues, and if you’re really going to live this life and be here, you have to be awake to the journey.”
On When the Sun Comes Shining Through, Thoburn deeply embraces a pictorial journey filled with lonesome AM radio, cherry red vans, summer berries, Mississippi tributaries, bright wings and Avalon forests. Each radiant track leaves a lasting imprint on the heart and soul of bygone eras and unread chapters.
“A lot of 2022 has been getting this album ready to launch … and I keep thinking COVID is over, and the sun comes shining through, and then COVID keeps coming back,” she said with a laugh. “This album is like leaving COVID, and it’s like going from winter and heading into spring.”
For Mike Ward, a new album chronicles a thoughtful evolution of sound.
The Detroit Americana singer-songwriter carefully transforms a dozen acoustic tracks into an earnest collection of expansive tales on Particles to Pearls.
“I think the first track we added any instruments to was ‘All We Have Are Words.’ David Roof played the electric guitar on it, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s what this can sound like.’ I’d been playing that by myself for two years,” said Ward about his third Psychosongs album.
“Because it’s been two years since I wrote most of those songs, and that’s right about now, every day on Facebook there’s a memory of the song, and I get to hear how I first wrote it.”
During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, Ward penned 31 new tracks as part of a 30 Songs in 30 Days songwriting challenge with New York City folk-rock singer-songwriter Paul Winfield. The poignant tracks opened his creative floodgates and pushed him deeper into the songwriting trenches.
“They’re all moments in time. The album has a number of those songs,” Ward said. “I’m pretty happy with the end results. David Roof plays bass on everything, but he also plays a 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar on ‘Back Again.’ We wanted a Byrds/Roger McGuinn-style sound on it.”
Steve Taylor follows a valuable piece of advice from his father.
The Lake Orion Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist carries an optimal load of “supplies” through life’s peaks and valleys with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, guitar, keys, vocals) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion, vocals) on The Steve Taylor Three’s insightful new album, Travel Light, out Friday.
“Once a year, my dad and I would go hike the Appalachian Trail in the Appalachian Mountains. He would always talk about how you had to bring everything with you because you’re going to be up in the mountains,” Taylor said.
“You’d have to carry all your water, and you don’t realize how heavy water is until you carry it with you all day. The idea is you only bring what you need. I thought the whole idea of camping and hiking and having to carry everything in your bag is a great metaphor for life.”
Inside The Steve Taylor Three’sTravel Light “bag” resides a comforting assortment of gratitude, wisdom and honesty across 11 transformative tracks. Each one introduces a past, present or future destination along an unpredictable journey filled with heartwarming experiences.
“The older we get, the more reflection there is. I seem to be writing a lot of songs now about the passage of time and what it means. That wasn’t the case when we were younger,” said Taylor, who last released Earn Every Scar with his bandmates in March 2020.
“The simplicity of that phrase, ‘It Doesn’t Take Long,’ I try to take that title or that refrain and just come at it from family, relationships and everything. You realize when you get to close to 50 … I’m going to turn 49 here in a couple weeks and Bryan and Carey have already turned 50. You think, ‘Wow, 50.’ When we were younger, we thought people who were 30 were old.”
The Bay City Americana singer-songwriter and bassist thoughtfully unveils those hidden milestones on his new hit-worthy anthology, Greatest Misses, out today.
“I had planned on having two releases. One was gonna be a new EP, but then I was gonna do what I initially called a Greatest Hits album, and it was almost self-deprecating,” said de Heus.
“I wanted to take some of the songs we had already done and put them on one album, so that people who wanted those could get them. I don’t reprint any of the old albums, they’re just gone … because that way if I ever do get famous, they’ll be worth a fortune.”
With Greatest Misses, de Heus assembles a priceless 15-track collection of multi-genre gems, including old favorites from prior releases and three new songs. Filled with melodic hooks, memorable lyrics and clever instrumentation, the album glides through country, power pop, jazz, blues and indie rock terrain.
“Traditionally, in pop music, and in the early days of rock and roll, you might put the same song on more than one album. That was part of it. Though I did want to throw those three new ones up front, I tried to still sequence it like an album, so it was a decent listen,” de Heus said.
“In way, this is almost like a second version of Silk Purses. Andy Reed called that my Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or White Album in the fact that every song is a different genre. Making the songs individually is one thing, but mixing and mastering them so they can sit next to each other on an album is another.”
Filled with confidence and purpose, Aspen Jacobsen boldly shares a sense of personal empowerment.
The Americana-folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist confronts internal guilt and fear from toxic relationships on her latest defiant single, “Shouldn’t Give a Damn.”
“I struggle with people-pleasing, and at times, have given a tremendous amount of energy to others, leaving nothing for myself and getting nothing in return,” said Jacobsen, 17, a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy.
“What inspired me to tackle toxic relationships and the effects it has on someone was through my own personal experience. I felt powerless and used, yet guilty and afraid of putting an end to an unhealthy relationship to prioritize myself.”
Jacobsen strongly channels that “Shouldn’t Give a Damn” energy as steadfast acoustic guitar, pulsating drums, fearless electric guitar and earnest fiddle create a protective barrier of fortitude.
She sings, “3 a.m. caffeine I don’t want to fall asleep/‘Cause your misted over eyes are haunting my dreams/Yes it helped me but hurt my guilty mind/Now you’re cleaning up my ashes and what’s left of your pride.”
“The first two lines … I wrote after a sleepless weekend. I had constant nightmares that left me scared to fall asleep because of feeling guilty. It was through writing this song that I had let go of the guilt and reminded myself that it’s OK to be ‘selfish’ sometimes and take care of yourself before others,” Jacobsen said.
“That is healthy, that is self-love. This song is me declaring to myself and the listener that you don’t have an obligation to give a damn for someone with whom you have a toxic relationship.”
Bill Edwards intricately designs a nostalgic roadmap to childhood.
The Ann Arbor Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist revisits his carefree days of growing up in rural Princeton, Illinois on his reminiscent new album, 61356, via Regaltone Records.
“I was eight when we moved there, and I was 13 when we left. Most of my childhood memories are from there. I don’t remember a whole lot before that, but I remember a ton about Princeton,” said Edwards, who lived there from 1960-1965 and named the album after the town’s zip code.
“It was a great place to be a kid. And sort of like I say in the first song, you’re just so unaware of what’s going on in the larger world beyond your handlebars. There was so much to explore, and you could just ride your bike anywhere you wanted to go.”
In his 61356mind’s eye, Edwards pedals to hardware stores, community pools, patchwork fields, county fairs, neighborhood homes and other memorable locales. He quickly transports listeners to a pastoral era filled with vivid tales, multiple perspectives and complicated relationships.
“I just kept writing away, and some of the new ideas kept coming to me. Some of them are reminiscences and others are completely made up with different characters. All of them though involve some personal connection, like the one from the point of view of the farmer,” Edwards said.
“My parents went out of town one time, and they had us kids stay with this farm family for a weekend. We got to see pigs being born in the middle of the night, and we got to learn something about farm life a little bit.”
“When I look back on it, I still feel like gratitude is the theme. ‘The Lucky One,’ ‘Warren Zevon’s Birthday’ and ‘Sophia’ have threads of gratitude that run through them. Then, there’s some curious pondering of things, like ‘The Only Thing,’ and ‘Voices’ is a little bit mystical,” said Jewett, who recently retired after a long career in program management.
“Yeah, I think almost everybody can probably relate to it in some way, but ‘Guilty’ is the outlier, and I have a fondness for dark music.”
Whether dark or uplifting, Jewett’s insightful music beckons listeners to reflect on their life’s purpose, their favorite moments and the people who surround them. His third release, The Lucky One, provides a thoughtful, folky passage through time across nine astute, indelible tracks.
“There have been a lot of changes in recent years that have caused me to step back and think, ‘Wow, it doesn’t seem like it’s been very long since that happened,’ or ‘Wow, it seems like it’s been forever since that happened,’” Jewett said. “And how you get both of those feelings about similar events, it’s just kind of mysterious to me.”