We last heard from bluesy, folksy retro rocker M. Ward in 2016, with the release of his solo LP More Rain and a She & Him Christmas album. But Ward’s been working in the meantime, and today we enjoy the fruits of his labor: a new album called What A Wonderful Industry, released by surprise.
The new project is self-released via M. Ward Records rather than Merge and Bella Union, the companies that handled More Rain; I wonder if that has anything to do with the presumably sarcastic album title. Here’s how Ward explained it in a press release:
This is a record inspired by people in the industry I have known — heroes and villains in equal measure. There’s some beautiful moments when you travel for a living, and I’m grateful for being part of an industry that’s taken me around the world so many times — but you quickly learn there’s a perfectly imperfect balance of cold-blooded and warm-blooded animals in the zoo. This record visits the most memorable characters. There’s a lot of very inspirational people I’ve had the pleasure to work with but there are also a few I wish I’d never met. It all tragically ends with an imaginary Griffin Mill-inspired murder ballad.
On first pass the record sounds like a wide-ranging collection that explores all sorts of classic sounds in Ward’s typical sepia-toned analog fashion. The second track, a Dylan-style rambler called “Miracle Man,” features guest vocals from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Ward’s bandmate in the supergroup Monsters Of Folk. On Twitter, Ward writes that the song is “designed for loud listening.” I can attest that it sounds mighty good blasting at high volume this morning.
Stream the full album below.
What A Wonderful Industry is out now on M. Ward Records. Purchase it here.