YOUR humble scribe has loved Portland’s M. Ward since right back in the days of The Transfiguration of St Vincent – his beautiful 2003 album full of his mellifluous voice, incredible guitar skills (if you’ve ever seen him live, you can pay testament to him somehow being two or three guitarists at once) and songs that seems to echo down across the decades from some lost, seductive place of classic romantic songwriting on longwave, caught in the ether.
So in many ways it’s no surprise – a really good fit, even, that he’s announced a full album of songs performed by Billie Holiday, Think of Spring, which the folks at ANTI- will be releasing on December 11th.
ANTI- have fluttered their well-kohled eyelashes at us with a single taken from the album, the languid acoustic swoon of “For Heaven’s Sake”; have a listen. That’s seduction.
M. Ward says of his approach to the project: “It still feels good to invent new guitar tunings and use them to help deconstruct old songs: Billie Holiday’s ‘For Heaven’s Sake’ in a modified open B.”
Bringing to bear all his low-key but very real six-string wizardry, he achieved the intimate sound of this record by filtering the original songs and strings through a single acoustic guitar, using alternate tunings and keeping the studio manipulation to a minimum; most of the songs were recorded on an Tascam analogue four-track.
The album title, Think of Spring, comes from a poem written in 1924 by Jane Brown-Thompson that eventually became ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ in 1938 – the first song on the record.
Proceeds from the album will benefit Inner-City Arts & DonorsChoose via PLUS1 for the Black Lives Fund.
M. Ward says of his own long love for the music of Lady Day: “I first heard Lady In Satin in a mega-shopping mall somewhere in San Francisco. I was about 20 years old and didn’t know much about Billie’s records or her life or how her voice changed over the years.
“Anyway, the sound was coming from the other side of the mall and I remember mistaking her voice for a beautiful perfectly distorted electric guitar – some other-world thing floating there on this strange mournful ocean of strings and I was hooked for life.”
It’s M. Ward’s second album of the year, and his eleventh in total, following the delectable Migration Stories back in late spring.
M. Ward’s Think Of Spring will be released by ANTI- on digital download, CD, trad black and translucent orange vinyl on December 11th; you can pre-order your copy here.
Follow M. Ward on Instagram, at his website, on Facebook and on Twitter.