Steal yourself, find a quiet moment, and prepare to be stunned by this short but exceptional work by Ward Davis.
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The Saturday Night barstool/Sunday morning church pew theme in country is as important to the music as three chords and the truth. One man’s hypocrisy is another man’s dichotomy. One man’s history of sin is another man’s redemption story. We’re all born with an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other. Country music seems to speak to that more and better than most anything else.
Ward Davis definitely personified the sinful side of life with his last single, “Another Bad Apple” released last year, complete with a crazy video documenting a wild crime spree. We still feel bad for the Mexican restaurant where Ward ordered an entire table of food before skipping out on the bill. Now Ward looks to tell the other side of the story with his 4-song EP Sunday Morning.
Generally speaking, EPs are the also-rans of recorded music, and for good reason. They’re commonly repositories for the leavings of other projects, or the results of artists wanting to be involved in music, but not committed enough to cut back on weed or work extra shifts to pay the studio time for a full LP.
Ward Davis though, he understands that a short form album can present an opportunity to deliver a cohesive thought better than an individual song can, but stretching that thought out into a full album can dilute it and lessen the impact as well. He showed his deft understanding of the EP format with Asunder released in 2018, which said so much more in four songs than many albums struggle to say in ten. Ward does this again with Sunday Morning.
Starting with the story of a recovering drug and alcohol addict marking his 70th day of sobriety, Sunday Morning isn’t as much of a Gospel album, a preachy work, or a praise exercise as it is a chronicling of characters, and their yearning for God and the release of guilt. Is there a religious context here? Sure. But the songs go far beyond garnering attention from religious affiliation.
First and foremost, Sunday Morning is an involved and formidable stroke of songwriting mastery that once again establishes Ward Davis as a serious stalwart in the field, and decidedly underrated in this respect. Greg Jones assists in writing “Day One.” “Lo and Behold” is a cover of a James Taylor song, and perhaps a little superfulous compared to Ward’s three originals. But that’s only because Ward’s songs are so bold and exceptional themselves.
From the fear of giving away spoilers for the songs, let’s refrain from any more discussion of them specifically and just say that the audience is urged to listen. With sparse and understated production by Jim “Moose” Brown, and with the natural downgrade and overlooking that EPs suffer from, Sunday Morning may struggle to find the wide audience it deserves.
But just like Ward Davis did with his Saving Country Music Album of the Year-winning album Black Cats and Crows from 2020, he distinguishes himself here with his use of words to deliver meaningful moments, and the strong voice he uses to deliver them with.
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