M. Ward
End of Amnesia
(Future Farmer)

The piano has been drinking, not me.

This music is so intimate, you almost daren't breathe, even with headphones on and your old salt uncle playing a '50s honky tonk on the old Joanna in the back room. Portland's own M. Ward sounds so unhurried, so personal and sweet on End of Amnesia you wonder how he manages to rise in the morning to drag a comb across his desert-blasted guitar pick. This is music for reformed alcoholics (not that I'd know), for cherry pickers, for those who know the sweetest hour is also the quietest, and that's also when you have no friends. Some of End Of Amnesia--"Half Moon," when the harmonica starts blowing to itself, too damn late; the charming bottleneck guitar on "Silverline"--sounds like mysterious outlaw Ward's mentor Howe Gelb. This isn't so damn surprising. It was the Sandman who discovered a demo of Matt's solo album, Duet For Guitars #2, and started preaching the Good Word, much like he'd done with Grandaddy before. In Britain, folk started comparing Matt to John Fahey and Rainer Ptacek, but you know us Limeys we're just dying for some more pigeon cubbies.

"Oh where are you going/For the two hundred and fiftieth time?" Ward laments on quietened, fading "Carolina." To make another cup of tea. Music this beautiful doesn't change across these ears every year.

Like Mr. Gelb, Mr. Ward is far superior to the people he is bound to be compared with--you know, the alt-country mob. Why? His music easily and naturally transcends genres depending on the mood and time of day and whether he's watching a Fellini or a David Lynch movie, and which decade from the last century happens to be in vogue in the Ward household that particular week. You can hear Tijuana horns, Berlin cabaret, the tormented soul of Gram Parsons, minimalist classical, melancholy instrumental, and many other distrait forms of undervalued music, but don't think this is contrived. It's not, in any shape or form.

You don't need to know who plays on this, but I'll tell you: Deeana from Lambchop, Howe, Mike from Old Joe Clarks, Jordan from Operacycle, Adam from Norfolk & Western, and a few other sundry friends. All you need to know is that it's beautiful, it's soulful, and it rocks harder than a leather-backed antique rocking chair. Yes, that good.