M. Ward, with Norfolk and Western

You run into a lot of people lately who say they've heard of Portland's M. Ward but haven't heard his music. I suppose that makes sense, given that Ward's creaky folk is so guileless, his voice a husky warble that won't hold your attention if you're not willing to meet it halfway. It's also true that at the moment we're inundated with singer-songwriters. From Devendra Banhart and Iron & Wine (a.k.a. Sam Beam) to Will Oldham and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst (with whom Ward has toured), the house of Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley is mighty crowded these days. Still, you should go see M. Ward. For one thing, he can play the hell out of his acoustic guitar, as well as or better than all of those dudes mentioned above. For another, his songs -- be they about love, loss or transistor radios -- are damn near perfect. Finally, he's a real sweet guy, approachable and sincere, just ambling down life's winding path at his own pace.
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Garrett Kamps