M. Ward

Wednesday

SXSW Records

M. Ward

Hold Time (Merge)

M. Ward's dusky drawl now carries all the comfort and familiarity of his threadbare sweaters. Yet for all the vintage analog atmosphere, the Portland, Ore., songwriter's sixth album continues to expand his Americana template with more of the classic AM pop sensibilities shown on 2006's Post-War and flooding last year's Zooey Deschanel collaboration, She & Him. Opener "For Beginners," "Jailbird," and folkie "One Hundred Million Years" deliver timeworn Ward, while the chugging "Fisher of Men," blues-pop "Epistemology," and jazz-folk tinge of "Blake's View" continue studies of doubt and hope. Ward's rollicking keyboard swirl on "To Save Me," the gritty electric licks of "Never Had Nobody Like You" (featuring Deschanel), and a lush Walker Brothers orchestration for the title track overlay his style in complementary fashion. Though the Buddy Holly cover "Rave On" is lackluster, Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" pairs Ward with Lucinda Williams' equally rugged vocals for a stunningly plaintive highlight. (Wed., Central Presbyterian Church, 9pm; Thu., Auditorium Shores Stage, 8:15pm.)

***

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