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M. Ward's 'Hold Time' A Collage Of Rock History

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M. Ward's 'Hold Time' A Collage Of Rock History

M. Ward's 'Hold Time' A Collage Of Rock History

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

M. Ward is a difficult musician to categorize. He is a singer-songwriter, and he's known for his acoustic guitar playing. But it wouldn't be right to pigeonhole M. Ward as a folk singer.

Critic Meredith Ochs says his new album, "Hold Time," moves in many musical directions.

(Soundbite of song, "Fisher of Men")

MEREDITH OCHS: When M. Ward writes songs, he takes bits of his earliest four-track recordings and mixes them up with newer material. And just like he travels back and forth across his own creative timeline, he moves deftly through the history of rock, country, blues and pop.

(Soundbite of song, "Fisher of Men")

Mr. MATT WARD (Musician): (Singing) He tied a feather to the hood for to get you to look. And by the time you know what took you, you already took. He's got a line in the water, he's a fisher of men.

And he put the thorns on the rose for to get you to bleed. And by the time you know what stuck you, the pains in deep. He's got a line in water, he's a fisher of men.

OCHS: M. Ward's new CD is filled with music touchstones and lyric references. On this song, a Gary Glitter beat, fuzzed-out guitar and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" meet Ward's most recent musical project, an indie pop band with actress Zooey Deschanel called "She & Him."

That's Zooey singing the harmony.

(Soundbite of song, "Never Had Nobody Like You")

Mr. WARD: (Singing) Now it's just like…

Mr. WARD and Ms. ZOOEY DESCHANEL (Singer): (Singing) …ABC.

Mr. WARD: (Singing) Life's just like…

Mr. WARD and Ms. DESCHANEL: (Singing) …one, two, three.

Mr. WARD: (Singing) Yeah, yeah.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (Singing) Yeah, yeah.

Mr. WARD: (Singing) Yeah, yeah.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (Singing) Yeah, yeah.

Mr. WARD and Ms. DESCHANEL: (Singing) Oh, oh. I watched my own habits die and it's painful. Sometimes it's painful in the light of the truth, but you can be faster than light. I want to thank you tonight. Honey, I ain't never had nobody like you. I ain't never had nobody like you.

OCHS: M. Ward doesn't only look to the past for songwriting inspiration. On his new CD, he re-imagines one of Buddy Holly's biggest hits. Many artists have covered "Rave On," but Ward inverts it, replacing Holly's original rock and roll hiccup with Brian Wilson-style studio immersion and a dose of laid back California sunshine. He completely changes the nature of the song in a way that draws you in. A skillful guitar picker, Ward underplays here, and it serves the song perfectly.

(Soundbite of song, "Rave On")

Mr. WARD: (Singing) I say, rave on. I say, rave on. My, my, my rave on. I say, rave on. I say, rave on. I say, rave on.

OCHS: For someone so good at mastering the signature details of songs and genres, the challenge is putting it all into something that sounds original and consistent, making it just opaque enough to create mystery while acknowledging the legends. And that's something M. Ward has gotten down to an art, if not a science.

(Soundbite of song, "Epistemology")

NORRIS: Meredith Ochs is a talk show host on Sirius XM Radio. The new album from M. Ward is called "Hold Time." And tonight on our Web site, M. Ward is performing a special acoustic session and taking questions from fans. That's at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Epistemology")

Mr. WARD: (Singing) I was raised in a Catholic school, learned who to fire with and pray to. I learned how to hold on from a book of old psalms. And if you're trying to sing an old song, you're getting all the words wrong.

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