Ward Davis (from the album Black Cats and Crows available on Ward Davis Music) (by Brian Rock)
Acclaimed Nashville songwriter Ward Davis (covered by Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Cody Jinks,) releases his second album, Black Cats and Crows. Filled with brooding lyrics and occasional crunchy Southern Rock guitar licks, the album proves that Outlaw Country is alive and well.
The title track sets the tone for Black Cats and Crows. Singing ‘God must have it in for me. Why? He only knows. ‘Cause everywhere I walk I see black cats and crows’. Wrestling personal demons and teetering between sin and redemption, Ward Davis ponders the futility of his struggles. With power ballad, electric guitar chords surging in the background, Davis paints a bleak portrait of a soul seeking hope in a sea of despair.
Ward Davis’ barrel-aged baritone adds gravitas to his lyrics as he mines the dark recesses of his psyche for stories about memories, melancholia and murder. “Ain’t Gonna Be Today” and “Get to Work Whiskey” deal with the aftermath of a failed relationship with despair and a touch of defiance as Davis uses crunchy guitar chords to mimic the anger phase of breakups. “Good and Drunk” and “Book of Matches” move Davis closer to acceptance as he gathers ‘letters and sweaters and pictures of you...’ and proceeds to ‘pop that cork and light this fire’ to burn away the pain of old memories - to the accompaniment of steel guitar. “Sounds of Chains” and “Papa and Mama” deal with a much darker side showing break-ups of a more permanent kind. The former cut is a vintage Outlaw Country story about killing an unfaithful lover. The latter a Gospel Blues infused tale of desperation at the hands of an abusive partner. All these tales are told with grit and a gravely snarl. However, Ward Davis shows his softer side on several tracks.
“Nobody” is a confessional song about feelings of self-doubt concealed beneath a friendly smile. He shows off his piano skills on the tender “Threads” and “Lady Down on Love”; both of which employ fiddle to great dramatic effect. He even manages to find a ray or two of sunshine in the traditional Country ballads “Where I Learned to Live” and “Heaven Had A Hand.” Both are songs of thanksgiving for the blessings that come unexpectedly into our lives. And therein may lie the secret to overcoming the negative influence of Black Cats and Crows in our lives. Davis seems to hint that the more we insist on imposing our own will, the more sorrow we reap. When we open ourselves to others and Heaven’s helping hand, the more we find our joy.
Ward Davis explores the emotional gamut of the human experience with honesty and intensity. His voice has a ‘straight from the heart’ quality that makes each song feel like a conversation with an old friend. Davis clearly respects the history and traditions of Country music, and Black Cats and Crows is a worthy new chapter of that continuing story. (by Brian Rock)
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