“Highly Meditated” – Ward Richmond

4 stars (out of 5)

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Ward Richmond’s a great example of the way the music sector (it’s difficult to call it a business or an industry) works these days. After touring in various bands with varying degrees of success between 1998 and 2006, he left live music behind in favour of a more traditional career path. In times past, that would have meant goodbye to music, with its cycle of album releases and tours, but times have changed. It’s more difficult to make a decent living from music now, but it’s much easier to release an album when you have it ready to go. That’s the route Ward Richmond’s gone down; he released “The Warden” in 2016 and four years later he’s releasing “Highly Meditated”.

The album’s a fascinating mix of humour, nostalgia, anxieties and gradual renunciation of vices (all the usual ones) and introduction of virtues (meditation and yoga). It’s a midlife album, but it’s far from a crisis; Ward is weighing up the pros and cons of the old and the new existence through the lens of parenthood. However happy the memories of the past are, it’s a country we no longer live in, and that’s message of “Highly Meditated”.

The musical stylings are mainly country-inflected but with a few notable exceptions, such as the final song “These Days” which opens with a drum pattern that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Adam and the Ants single in the eighties before morphing into a rockabilly workout punctuated by a spoken middle eight about the virtues of hot yoga. “I Need A Water Fountain” references another facet of the eighties (and late seventies), FM radio drivetime with maybe a hint of Journey in there, whereas “Hey Levi” looks back a decade further to the sound of The Band at their peak.

Ward Richmond looks forward and backward with a wry sense of humour that’s obvious in the lyrics and sometimes in the musical stylings as well. There’s plenty of self-deprecation in the backward and forward views that, along with humour, somehow underlines the seriousness of the overall message; at some point, most of us actually grow up.

“Highly Meditated” is out now as a download.