Album Review – Ward Davis – “Sunday Morning”
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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May 22, 2023 @ 10:51 am
Glad this got the review that it warranted.
It is so good & powerful. Ward gets his love on here, but is criminally under-appreciated overall.
May 22, 2023 @ 11:39 am
Thats some good stuff right there.
May 22, 2023 @ 11:47 am
Ward delivers again, and again, and again. I find his song writing along with his voice and delivery among the best in country music.
“Black Cats and Crowes” is still one of my favorite albums. This EP is a nice addition to his catalog.
May 22, 2023 @ 12:02 pm
“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.”
I don’t know whether that’s true–I think in many cases, it’s the record label that makes these decisions–but it’s one of the best lines I’ve seen/heard in quite a while.
David:The Duke of Everything
May 22, 2023 @ 3:40 pm
Very fine stuff. A little mournful I guess but it does seem to be telling a story. His delivery seems a little slower than I prefer but still good
May 22, 2023 @ 5:09 pm
This is my kind of EP. Hate when a EP is nothing more than a prequel to the next album with the same songs, or acoustic versions of old songs. But when an EP can be used to release one off stuff that wouldn’t fit with an ordinary release, you get good stuff.
Wade doing some gospel and music about life is good stuff.
May 23, 2023 @ 3:00 am
Showing my age, but…
Used to be you’d find things like this on a LP – four songs to the side, and one side for each side…
May 23, 2023 @ 9:55 am
His Black Crows album was superb. I would have liked another album but some is better than nothing. Great new songs.
May 23, 2023 @ 5:28 pm
Nice review. I love Ward, One of the most heartfelt batch of songs I’ve heard in a while.
May 23, 2023 @ 9:57 pm
I really do love Ward, but this EP is pretty depressing stuff. It’s kinda painful to get through.
May 24, 2023 @ 6:05 am
Agreed, but I also think a majority of his songs can tend to be that way.
Love Ward Davis, but it’s music for a certain mood. The mood you described.
May 24, 2023 @ 1:30 pm
Adding more love for Black Cats, which is a stone-cold classic. Ward is criminally underrated. This EP is keeping with his high-quality output. I also love Ward’s hilarious personality — the guy is so funny.
Was excited to see him play a tiny club in my town in a couple weeks but my daughter is graduating from college that week and, you know, priorities.