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Thursday, 24th July 2014
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Ward Thomas - From Where We Stand

Ward ThomasAnd I wonder, if they'll ever see the signs,
That we're hungry for a message that inspires

 
The words are from The Good and the Right, a track on From Where We Stand, the debut album from country duo Ward Thomas.   As a commentary on the UK, a place where every politician sounds the same, and the words 'paedophile' and 'celebrity' are interchangeable, it's bang on the money.

However, Ward Thomas's musical influences are entirely American.  Produced in Nashville by top country players Bobby Blazier and Chris Rodriquez, From Where We Stand is a slick affair, with highly accomplished performances from a stable of session musicians.  But that only gets you so far, without solid material.  Fortunately, twin sisters Cathy and Lizzie Ward Thomas deliver that.  In addition, the vocal performances are strong throughout, both individually and in harmony.

The Good and the Right, is big, fiddle led and impossible to ignore with the third line of the verse dropping to a minor chord, which gives it a distinctive edge.  Clever stuff.

The lead off song, Push For the Stride is similarly high octane, but with a tighter sound.  The lyrics drop into cliché territory often (intentionally?)  and while the honky tonk piano is very welcome, the instrumental break featuring that instrument is too short.  Perhaps, that's nit picking, but this is a great number that could have been darn near perfect.   It's also released today as a single, with a slightly odd video that has Cat and Liz going all Thelma and Louise, before changing their minds and bursting into song in a meadow, with the owner of the car they've just pinched making ground.

The title track, is simpler and more melancholy – a depiction of parental divorce, with the accompaniment stripped back to a single piano initially, before the build up to a big finish with strings and wailing guitar.  You half expect Bonnie Tyler to put in an appearance.

The material on the second half isn't as strong -  we're more in pop territory now.  The songs are pleasant enough, but don't really catch the ear, like those earlier.  The pick of this section is Wasted Words, with a backing that reminds you of Union Station.  But of course, that makes you wish it was Union Station.

Still, half a notable album, is half more than most manage and as a debut release  From Where We Stand ain't too shabby.  This reviewer, for one, expects Ward Thomas to be around for some time, and that's no bad thing.

- Les Pilling

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