As soon as M Ward comes on stage his strange, other-worldly voice floats over the crowd and the captivated reaction means there is no doubt this is something quite special. Sounding somewhere between a whisper and choir, it is utterly unmistakeable and totally unique.

Starting with just himself, a guitar and that voice, Ward’s almost unfeasibly beautiful alt-folk/alt-country songs entrance and astound in roughly equal measure.

By the time one of his band joins him to take up a whistling part on ‘Lullaby + Exile’ the crowd looks like they could take more of the same all night. As the rest of the band soon also come on stage, Ward’s foot stamps, however, firmly on the pedal.

With a full band in effect the gig swerves into an old-fashioned rock and roll night. It stays just the right side of a ho-down with accomplished covers of 'The Entertainer' and 'Roll Over Beethoven' joining his own material.

Equally at home playing full-on electric solos as with carefully plucked acoustic melodies, Ward exhibits the rare mix of not only writing great songs but living up to them with his own playing.

Stomping piano songs melt with plaintive acoustic guitar supplications and never once let down the promise of that entrance. If you see two gigs this good this year you can count yourself lucky.

It remains fundamentally baffling that Ward is not vastly more famous.

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Commenting On: Borderline, London, 25/2/2009 - M Ward

ie London, England

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