The violin concertos of Belgian-born composer/virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps have been recorded by various players, including the young Russian-American virtuoso Misha Keylin heard here. But these shorter pieces, which would have been the stock-in-trade of Vieuxtemps' active touring life (during one American tour he made 121 appearances in six months, without benefit of planes, automobiles, or in many cases trains), are a good deal rarer. They don't have the main virtue of the concertos, which is that there's a certain amount of structural interest to go with the Paganini-like fireworks, but they're a great deal of fun.
M. Ward's latest is a rough-cut Americana diamond, one crafted not simply from folk and bluegrass but also 50s AM radio, the saloon cabaret of studio-era Hollywood, and good old-fashioned indie rock. It's artists like M. Ward who make me contemplate why I write about music. I get my skin tingling to the acoustic guitars and I'm just thinking "Jesus, is this what it's about?" I'm trying to put the feeling this music gives me into words in an attempt to understand it, to convey how great it is and why, and maybe convince you that it's worth your cash or your bandwidth, and it occurs to me that I'm unsure why I do it– why I need to do it– and that, in the end, it's because I'm enjoying this and I want you to enjoy it, too.