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.

Next up in the MusicRiot 2016 High Fives is a contribution from Dallas bass player, songwriter and manager Ward Richmond, better known as The Warden. There are some great lines on his eponymous album released earlier this year, including (from the raucous “Our Town”) ‘Miller Lites and shots and fights’ and the run-out at the end of “Sun Goes Down” which sort of sums up the album: ‘What it lacks in proficiency and accuracy is surely duly matched in sheer moxie’. Many thanks to Ward for sharing his favourites with us. If you’re particularly observant, you might notice that there are actually six entries here; bass players always like to go one higher. And DFW is Dallas/Fort Worth.

margo-priceMargo Price – “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter”

This one by far is my favorite album of the year. 10 Thumbs up. Once “Hands of Time” comes to an end, you will be in love with this woman -- and her songs.

 

 

luke-bellLuke Bell – “Luke Bell”

Pure old school Texas-style honky-tonk. Do yourself a favor and watch the music video for “Sometimes”. It makes me want to move to Nashville and be roommates with this dude.

 

 

cody-jinksCody Jinks – “I’m Not the Devil”

Cody is from the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area. George Strait meets Waylon Jennings. The real deal. The title track says it all.

 

 

 

vandoliersVandoliers – “Ameri-Kinda”

Another DFW band. The scene here in North Texas is really becoming the strongest that I’ve ever seen it over the course of 20+ years of playin’ around town and the Vandos are leading the charge. If “Bottom Dollar Boy” doesn’t get your toes a tappin’, then I don’t know what will…

the-osThe O’s – “Honeycomb

And another DFW band. Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, yet? This has to be my favorite Alt Folk duo in the world. The O’s also happen to be two of my good friends and bandmates in our project, Boys Named Sue. “Retribution” is my favorite track. I wish I wrote it. (We loved this at Riot Towers as well).

 

paul-cauthenPaul Cauthen – “My Gospel”

I met Paul literally 30 seconds after I met Kris Kristofferson. The next thing I knew he was onstage singing a song with Kris. “Still Drivin’” is my anthem for 2016.

The Warden ScrollerWell, there’s a lot to like about this album, particularly the backwards look at outlaw country. These are the kind of songs you would hear in the country bar that Jake and Elwood stumbled into. There songs about drinking, songs about cars, songs about drinking, songs about guns, songs about drinking; you get the picture. The repeated line from “Our Town”, ‘Miller Lites and shots and fights’ just about sums it up and it’s great fun. The Warden is Ward Richmond, a fixture on the Dallas scene for years as a bass player, songwriter and manager and this is his debut solo album.

The songs are mainly autobiographical, stories about youth, irresponsibility, life on the road and even relationships. The musical stylings are mainly in the area between country and rock ‘n’ roll; the honky-tonk style that’s hard and fast and loud because that’s the way you needed to play to get the crowd’s attention in a honky-tonk. For most of the album, you wouldn’t accuse anyone of underplaying, particularly on “High Life”, which is delivered at breakneck speed with some great honky-tonk piano.

The notable exceptions to this rule are the mid-tempo duet with Madison King, “Bullets”, featuring some lovely pedal steel from Burton Lee and the album’s closer, “Dark Clouds”, built around acoustic guitar and pedal steel. For most of the rest of the album, it’s mainly about turning everything up to 11 and throwing in guitar, piano and horns to create a glorious noise; listen to “Sun Goes Down” and you’ll see what I mean.

The album’s a lot of raucous good fun but I’m not sure that Ward’s intention of making the lyrical message stronger by tonking up the music really works; I suspect that the good-time arrangements might actually detract from the lyrical message. My other reservation is that Ward’s voice is ok, but a stronger voice might put the songs over a bit more effectively. It’s an interesting listen, and I think the songs with the full band would make a great live show, but I’ll leave the finally summary to the studio talkback at the end of the lively “Sun Goes Down”: ‘What it lacks in proficiency and accuracy is surely duly matched in sheer moxie’.

The Warden” is out now on Idol Records (IR123).