GORDON THOMAS WARD is a singer/songwriter. I use that term a lot on this blog. But Gordon is a folk singer. That’s the real deal. The relationship between folk singer and audience is one of the most personal and intimate in popular music.
An audience sits quietly sipping coffee in a tiny cafe as they listen to an artist alone, guitar in hand, and with a tale to tell. For that brief period of their lives, they live in his world. When the show is done and the story is told, the guests will return to their homes humming songs that will become memories. The singer packs his guitar into its case and moves on to another town. There are no roadies, tour buses or wild Rock & Roll after-parties. There is just that same lonely musician, in search of the next coffee shop, telling stories and writing new ones.
Ward knows that road well. A native of Winter Harbor, Maine, Gordon has spent years on tour of venues large and small throughout the Northeast. However it’s not all coffee shops and folk festivals for Mr. Ward. He has also managed to make it to the studio and record an impressive catalog of original music. He has scored documentary films, contributed music to activist causes in which he believes, and he has produced a series of brilliant and critically acclaimed records. His 2018 album “Providence” was even on the ballot for Grammy consideration.
“Eiderdown” is Gordon Thomas Ward’s latest release. The 16 song double album is an epic representation of the artist’s skills as a storyteller, singer and guitarist. Throughout the record he lives and breathes the human condition. The settings change from song to song, but the message is consistent throughout. Whether singing from the perspective of a Revolutionary War soldier (“The Ballad of Joseph Martin”), a Vietnam-era National Guardsman firing on protesters at Kent State (“Four Angels”), or from his own perspective observing modern politics (“The Ghost of Hugh Thompson”), Ward sings of the power, nobility and beauty of the individual and also of the folly and ignorance of humanity at large.
He manages to make these observations and commentaries without ever sounding superior or judgemental, which is no small feat. Gordon has a great ability to tell it like it is, without extracting himself from the equation. We are all beautiful, we are all foolish, and he is right there with us. Gordon’s message is just as effective when his focus becomes less global and more personal. Songs like “Just For You” and “Longing” take a loving look at interpersonal relationships. The latter is a real highpoint of the record. The song is a beautiful duet with singer Caroline Cotter. It brings to mind classic Country pairings like Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons.
Musically Eiderdown is very much a folk album, in that acoustic guitar is the central (and sometimes only) instrument. Within that paradigm however, Ward explores genres from Blues, to Rock to Appalachian mountain music (“Long Long Ago”). The title track has the feel of an old Celtic sailor song. Accompaniment on the record is subtle and used to really beautiful effect. At various points; Cellos, fiddles, electric guitars and mandolin enter the mix. Each is used just enough, and performed impeccably. I really love the guitar throughout. From start to finish, the guitar playing on the record is excellent.
In both composition and execution, Eiderdown is a beautiful accomplishment. The record is an impressive testament to the talent of a true storyteller. The song is king, there is no doubt. However, Gordon never fails to ensure that each component of the arrangement remains true to and worthy of the stories they are telling.
Check out “Eiderdown” below. You can hear Gordon Thomas Ward’s song “Four Angels” on the Deep Indie Dive playlist. Follow the links below to connect with the artist, stay up to date on all of his current and future projects.