The first thing you hear on Cappuccino is a snare drum slap that sounds like a starter’s gun, as if to say “Pay attention: this is nothing like what you’ve heard before.” That was true for me, even though my collection of Colin Ward CDs extends way back to his 2006 release Double Handed, and includes both versions of ICW Blues.
On this outing Colin has made considered but liberal use of the spice rack full of guest players and singers he knows, including three members of his Rose Island Band and this writer, co-founder of the Blue Island Beer Club. It serendipitously produced some sounds that I’m guessing even Colin—who kept his directions to a minimum— didn’t see coming.
• “The Emigration Song” is Brit-pop of the highest order. Beats me why I was surprised to hear it from ex-Brit Colin.
• “How Does Your Heart Feel Now” might have come from the pen of New Orleans bluesman Ray Johnson, a favorite of mine, but that lead guitar is definitely Colin’s.
• Kimberly Kime provided a strong and heartfelt lyric for “Appalachia”, then Colin gave it music that sounds like a Depression-era folk song some newgrass band has brought up to date.
cappuccino in depth review
Alright readers – we’re not leaving this Americana subject quite yet. Hot off the heels of our last interview with a blues-country-rock slice of Americana with Skinny Cool Kid – let’s get into this new album Cappuccino by Colin Ward with his folk twist on this classic style of music. Though outside my genres of choice…I can’t help but crack a smile every time the album cycles through and I hear the track “Sometimes Sleep Don’t Come Easy;” as it never has for me…but I suppose that’s why I listen to as much music as I do…
I also watch a lot of stuff. Not all of it good either if I do say so myself. In fact, most of what I choose to view is just horrendously awful; endless sub-par horror flicks written with the flair of a third grader’s imagination…but I also catch a lot of great stuff as well. You couldn’t get me off the couch when Breaking Bad was on. Absolutely loving Sons Of Anarchy right now. Love my cartoons too…like Family Guy for instance…still a classic…
This is all going somewhere, I swear…
Right! My first impression. Strange that it would come from a cartoon reference, but that was the immediate reaction to hearing the lyrics from Colin Ward from the opening track “The Emigration Song.” Though listening securely on his CD Baby page with a “Recommended If You Like…” section that includes Jerry Garcia, Mark Knopfler and Tom Petty – I found that my immediate comparison came from the extreme amount of information related through that first song…and it made me think of the moments where Randy Newman has shown up in Peter Griffin’s world to tell a tale of what’s happening at that very moment through song. If you’re not convinced by the opening track, listen to “I’m Amazed,” you’ll at least hear where I’m coming from…
And you can take that for what it is – it’s definitely not an insult, just a connection made through the lyrical style of Colin Ward. No song on Cappuccino is an exception; Ward packs a full novel into every song. And if you were to ask THIS bearded guy reviewing this album (Seems someone must have!) – this is an incredible gift from Colin to all of you who listen. Let me explain…
Lyrics are tough! Go ahead and try this right now and you tell me I’m wrong…
Out loud, you just go ahead and tell – you don’t even have to sing – your favorite story from your life, don’t spare any details…and take notice of the clock. See if you can wrap up the most important, most beautiful or most heartbreaking moment of your life in under TEN minutes. Every song is an opportunity for a lyricist to put their words to a fresh, untainted canvas – and in my heart-of-hearts I like to believe that we’re all trying to say SOMETHING. I even like to believe that these writers try to recreate these amazing tales of their lives – just like the ones you all said out loud moments ago – into songs. And they have to typically tell those quality tales between 3-5 minutes!
To write in the style that Colin Ward does is a freedom that the pen in most hands will never know. Coupled with the easy-to-listen-to music, this album Cappuccino really feels like you’ve gotten to know Colin Ward personally by the time the album closes. His lyrics truly reflect the world through his eyes giving you a genuine, true insight into the mind of Ward. In OR out of song – I have the feeling Colin is definitely the storyteller in ANY group of people.
They say “write what you know” – and what Colin knows is a good story. Whether it has come from his own personal autobiographical collection, or a fictional tale – his effort into relating these tales through song is a real testament to how much you really CAN make out of that 3-5 minute instrumental track when you focus and put your mind to those lyrics.
Musically I find I’m in nearly the exact same boat as our last review in this genre with Skinny Cool Kid. Though I myself personally am always thirsting for new and unique sounds – I’m also not going to be the reviewer to knock everyone down who doesn’t go out and re-invent the musical wheel. Americana, almost by the default nature of the very genre itself, might never sound NEW. But much like with what Colin has done here on Cappuccino it can certainly sound plenty comfortable and familiar, relax and put you in a chilled out mood.
Is it well played? Certainly. There’s a ton to like about this project of Ward’s. Beautifully toned and crisp guitar solos, there’s some sax I believe…some strings as well. In a real tribute to the Americana genre – it’s subtle but if you listen to “Let’s Go Downtown” – you’ll definitely be able to hear an authentic organ in there as well, filling in the background quite nicely. “Sometimes Sleep Don’t Come Easy” also features a stellar female back-up vocal that works very well – I’d be shocked if she didn’t have a career of her own somewhere out there as well…fits perfectly in this song.
Hmm. Maybe it’s trumpet. I should know this... Nahhhhh…that’s a sax for sure… “How Does Your Heart Feel Now” has just got some incredible stuff happening in this song from the keys to the sax (Yeah – I decided.) creating a real highlight on this album from Colin Ward. He drifts from styles influenced by Clapton, Cash, and Petty…sometimes even nearing the edge of Cohen.
But never to the point where Ward loses himself inside his influences; expanding on these sounds through great storytelling and dedicated lyricism, his style that cannot be confused for another’s. It’s still Americana, yes, but it’s identifiably Colin Ward the entire way through. Artists can go through their entire careers lost in the sea of sameness due to being audibly unidentifiable, but Colin will never have that problem.
All he has to do is stay true to himself. After listening to his album Cappuccino multiple times, I feel like I know him like a musical-brother-from-another-mother, so I feel like I can almost say firsthand that this won’t be a problem for him. Each of these tracks represents an honesty and a story genuinely felt by Ward and expertly passed on to you through song.
Jer @ Sleeping Bag Studios, Abbotsford, BC, CA