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  • Jonathan Widran

GORDON THOMAS WARD, Walking on the Wire

Still mourning the loss of the great Gordon Lightfoot, I felt blessed to discover another musical storyteller named Gordon, whose musical vibe and voice may be different, but whose ability to weave personal, confessional and character driven narratives ensures that the pop/folk genre Lightfoot was part of is in great, poetic and musically diverse hands moving forward.

Now in his second decade of recording, Ward’s latest album Walking on the Wire is a rich compendium of 13 slices of passionate, premiere musical literature, with tales and vocals animated and brought to glorious life by a veritable sea of famed musicians – including folk legend Noel Paul Stookey, backing vocalist Eric Troyer (John Lennon, Billy Joel, ELO II) and electric and lap steel guitarist Kevin Barry (James Taylor, Jackson Browne).

One could fill an entire review of Ward’s latest masterwork with a full list of his own instruments – six distinctive guitars, an 8-string Walkabout dulcimer, organ, Mellotron, music box, etc. – but the listener’s focus beyond that fascination should be on his colorful lead and harmony vocals and his endlessly inventive storytelling and lyrical turns of phrase.

On some tunes, like the jangling opener “Silhouette” and the countrified, high energy “You Reap What You Sow,” his relatively cheerful vocal tone and dreamy harmonies contrast with the haunting nature of some of the words. Generally, though, his gift is balancing romantic-leaning, sweetly nostalgic gems like the spirited and spiritual/ metaphorical “Butterflies” with fascinating compelling dramas whose depth of details could be converted into stage plays or musicals – most notably, the whimsical, bluegrassy “Comin’ In” (co-written with Stookey and William J. Hall, “The Bones of Old John Ford” (a haunting march about the plight of a Revolutionary War soldier) and “Wendy Shires,” an eight minute folky meditation told from the perspective of a child who died at three and is still looking out for her family from beyond and trying to communicate in unique ways.

Much like Lightfoot in his heyday, Ward’s lyrics are so vivid that listeners will want to hang on to every turn of phrase in anticipation of the next. Walking on the Wire is an instant indie folk/AAA classic!


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