Peter Ward – Train to Key Biscayne
Gandy Dancer Records
CD: 12 Songs, 43:00 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, Traditional and Contemporary Electric Blues, All Original Songs
Perhaps the most special thing about Train to Key Biscayne, by Maine native Peter Ward, is its array of brilliant guest stars: Luther Johnson, Michelle Willson, Ronnie Earl, Sugar Ray Norcia, Johnny Nicholas, and Anthony Geraci. As they say on infomercials, “But wait, there’s more.” Six seconds into the album, I paused it and cried, “Lovely!” That NEVER happens. Once you pop this in your CD player, download or stream it, there’s no going back. Its musical journey is a one-way trip to paradise. Some vocals are flat and hard to understand, but who cares when the musicians and their instruments of choice are top-notch? Another plus is the wide variety of song styles, from traditional blues homage (“The Luther Johnson Thing”) to roaring rocker (“I Saw Your Home”) to instrumental (“Anthony’s Son”). You’re in luck – analysis is included.
“Peter ‘High Fi’ Ward has been a brother to me since I have known him in 1975,” says guitar legend and multiple Blues Music Award-winner Ronnie Earl. “To me, he plays the kind of music that I just love, which is traditional blues, Western swing and country – and he is adept at all these styles. His music makes me want to pick up the guitar and play.” That’s the highest compliment an artist can receive: that s/he inspires others to create as well, not just bask in reflected glory. He grew up in Lewiston, Maine and later moved to Boston. Ward was also married for twenty years to blues DJ Mai Cramer, who passed away of breast cancer in 2002. Each year since then, Peter and Mai’s fans have staged a fundraiser in her honor, featuring such headliners as Duke Robillard, Jody Williams, Lurrie Bell and Ron Levy.
Performing alongside Peter and the guest stars mentioned above are Mudcat Ward on bass, Neil Gouvin on drums, Jiri Nedoma on piano, Bob Berry on bass, George Dellomo on drums, Hank Walther on piano, harmonica, and organ; Aaron Gratzmiller on saxophone and organ, and Keith Asack on additional guitar, bass and drums.
The following three songs are highlights, so “order now.”
Track 01: “The Luther Johnson Thing” – “Lovely” was what yours truly termed this song, but you don’t have to take her word for it. Let the mellifluous combination of Sugar Ray Norcia’s harp and Ward’s guitar wash over your ears like ocean waves lapping the shore. Our song’s subject does vocal duty reminiscent of Randy Newman and Ray Charles in his later years.
Track 05: “I Saw Your Home” – Okay, this isn’t a blues song. It’s an explosive ballad that’ll blow out your speakers or your earbuds if you crank the volume too high. Nevertheless, there hasn’t been guitar phrasing this gorgeous since Dire Straits’ “Calling Elvis.” Michelle Willson’s vocals bring “Home” the message. Poignant and powerhouse all at once, it’s a spot-on lure for Millennials and even younger folks who don’t have much of a blues/rock background.
Track 12: “Anthony’s Son” – Mothers sing their little ones to sleep. This CD’s closer is a lullaby for grownups. One minute and seven seconds of Peter Ward’s soothing strumming will make even the most caffeine-hyped listener’s head hit the pillow. Relax, enjoy, and sweet dreams.
Is this review just one big infomercial? Yes, but I meant every word. You’ll surely want to board Peter Ward and guests’ Train to Key Biscayne!