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M. Ward 

Post-War (Merge)

Matt Ward makes modern folk music with an old soul. Like the iconic Delta-blues troubadour, Ward's front-porch, finger-picking, humming tales about life's highs and lows have celebrated the simple folk traditions of a man and his guitar across four fantastic full-length albums. Possessing the finger skills of John Fahey and the voice of a chain-smoking Nick Drake, Ward continues his love of Appalachian, blues, and folk-guitar music on Post-War, but for the first time with a full band and a polished rock edge.

The album's lonely opener, "Poison Cup," is only a pretty lullaby before the stunning rock-and-roll squall of "To Go Home," which swirls with Ward's chugging guitar rhythms and Neko Case's breezy backing vocals. It's a cover of a song from off-kilter indie-folk artist Daniel Johnston, reinvigorated with a rollicking honky-tonk life force. That same rock spirit infuses the perfect Beach Boys comeback track "Magic Trick" as well as the great, Beck-like slacker ballad, "Right in the Head." Fortunately, there are still plenty of murky pools of beautiful folk music here too, driven by M. Ward's expansive guitar work and his old-world spirit. Songs about life's simple pleasures ("Rollercoaster") and its inevitable disasters ("Requiem"), in particular, feel like sincere, time-honored folk favorites.

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