New Album Review

WKNC Pick of the Week 3/10

Matt Ward is worth the time
Susannah Brinkley

Matt Ward is a musical time traveler.

Known for his old-fashioned songwriting, his prodigious guitar talent and his deep, raspy voice, the tunes on Ward’s new album Hold Time offer a nostalgic look back to folk, rock ’n’ roll and Americana roots. The Oregonian’s sixth full-length album is a true step back in time.

At first listen, Hold Time sounds a lot like its predecessor, Post War. The tracks offer the same crooning voice and wistful, poignant lyrics that can be heard on Ward’s other albums from the last decade. While Ward has focused on themes like love and wartime in his previous albums, this time he’s focusing on God, mortality and mainstream Western religion.

The songs seem to run together, though, and only a few seem to stand out, but not by much. “Jailbird” is classic Ward, which is full of his trademark guitar playing. “For Beginners (AKA Mt. Zion)” and “Epistemology” both have foot-tapping beats reminiscent of those on Post-War and Volume One, Ward’s delicious, 70s-esque collaboration with actress Zooey Deschanel as the charming duo She & Him.

However, Hold Time brings in some new talent for the mix. Ward is known for his covers and collaborations, and it is welcoming to hear guests Lucinda Williams, The Decemberists’ Rachel Blumberg, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle and DeVotchKa’s Tom Hagerman in addition to Deschanel.

The charming “Never Had Nobody Like You,” featuring Deschanel, evokes the saccharine sounds of She & Him, making one’s mouth water for a Volume Two. On “Lonesome,” Ward pairs with Williams for a very long and awkward tune. Deschanel drops in once more for a lush cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” and Lytle steps in for “To Save Me,” whose fast pace seems out of place among Ward’s more quintessential melodies.

Though it’s been almost three years since Matt Ward put out a solo album, he’s still been quite the busy guy. After the release of the esteemed Post-War in 2006, Ward toured the States. Then, in 2007, he teamed up with Deschanel to record and release Volume One, with which he (and Deschanel) followed another tour.

And the release of his new album Hold Time last month coincided with the launch of yet another tour, which unfortunately won’t be coming to North Carolina like the previous ones.

But that shouldn’t prevent anyone from listening to Ward’s latest. Whether you’re a sucker for old-time melodies or just looking for something different, Hold Time is worth the time travel.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and