M. Ward is a bit of a throwback; a songwriter and troubadour whose voice digs out from a well-worn, 45 rpm haze of acoustic guitar and AM fuzz. Add to this his work with Zooey Deschanel in She & Him, a joyous return to the classic sounds of the ‘50s that furthers this effect.
Hold Time, Ward’s sixth release, diverges little in tone and presentation than his past work. The woozy title track hums with a mature vibe, “Rave On” swings like long-forgotten transistor ambiance, and a cover of the Don Gibson penned “Oh Lonesome Me” is delicately cracked, Ward joined by Lucinda Williams on vocals. “Fisher of Men” is the best that Hold Time has to offer, a rambling backbeat driving Ward’s understated vocals through a timeless, settling rockabilly groove.
Following up M. Ward’s last solo album, Post War, and She & Him’s critically acclaimed 2008 release is certainly not an easy task, even for a veteran in competition with few other than himself. And while Hold Time doesn’t strike as brightly as those releases, it is a confident and worthy addition to the songwriter’s canon.
Hold Time is out now on Merge Records.