Known for his rich storytelling and guitar-centric folk compositions, Gordon Thomas Ward returns with his delightful fourth studio album: Whispers from the Woods. The entire record was composed at a cottage in Maine where he spent lockdown, and its title is a reference to the inspiration that he drew from the sounds of the surrounding forest.
The title track, Whispers from the Woods, fittingly begins with the sound of birdsong, and Gordon delivers
a brief spoken word passage about a singing thrush. The soft fingerpicking of a nylon string follows, and a pair of flutes enter in mesmerizing harmony. The lyrics offer a bleak portrayal of mankind’s egoism and obsession with money… “There is no secret savior who’ll rectify and save us from ourselves / Chasing the silver and gold has fashioned our own hell”. The track employs smooth tempo changes and superbly navigates through different musical styles.
The Gift is a tender folk song that describes the innocence of childhood; the blissful time in your life before the harsh realities of the world rush down to meet you. This time the instrumentation is restricted to guitar only, but a lovely slide part accompanies the main rhythm progression. Gordon delivers some beautiful vocal harmonies during the song’s chorus and his falsetto is rather Neil Young-esque.
Common Ground sees a transition into a nostalgic, classic-rock sound. A dark electric-guitar riff recurs throughout the track – mirrored note for note by acoustic guitar. It sounds like something a young Jimmy Page might have come up with – which is fitting, given the context of the song. Common Ground pays homage to the great musicians of the past and elaborates on the way that these artists all borrowed from, taught, and inspired each other. Featuring clever references to iconic folk/rock figures (“Joni’s on a carousel / Neil is underneath a harvest moon”), and a fervent band performance, this track is a very pleasing listen from start to finish.
There was a Time spotlights the piano playing of Ben Hunsberger and is the only track not to feature guitar. Instead, Gordon employs the use of 29 tracks to create a stunning, layered vocal sound. The lyrics describe the various stages of life; from childhood to adolescence, and old age. It’s an emotional listen that is made all the more powerful by its simultaneously sparse and elaborate arrangement.
Once again, Gordon demonstrates his intricate slide playing on Fly, one of the album’s real highlights. This downbeat country-rock tune is a tribute to the millions of people who left their homelands and made the arduous voyage to America in search of better prospects… “Our children could be dreamers”. The chorus is infectious; a lush stack of vocal harmonies embellish the determinedly optimistic tone of the lyric… “Challenges and changes / The dream is worth the dangers”.
The call of nature never feels too distant within this record. Gordon Thomas Ward‘s insightful lyrics speak right to the heart and exude a profound sense of spiritual grounding. There is a nice balance of soft, acoustic numbers and rocking grooves, and the way that Gordon layers his guitar parts in each setting is very impressive. Whispers from the Woods is the honest, heartfelt work of a man with a clear vision for his art.
BELOW: Listen to Whispers from the Woods, and connect with his website and social media platforms, check out his live show/tour schedule, and find his booking & contact information. Please support Gordon Thomas Ward by visiting him online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing his music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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Contact: Gordon Thomas Ward
Phone: (908) 295-2391