Artist: Jim Ward
Sub Genres: Alternative, punk, folk
Estimated Listening Time: 32 mins 56 secs
Featured Artist(s): Shawna Potter
Contributing Musician: Ben Kenney (Bass Guitar), and Tucker Rule (Drums)
Distorted guitars, rhythmic syncopations, drum rolls, thumping bass lines, screaming vocals, minimal vocal harmonies, provoking/soothing lyrics, minimal synths, and keys all come together to create a unique but familiar flavor in Jim Ward’s latest musical project – a ten-track folk, rock, alternative, and, punk album. It is needless to re-state that Jim Ward is quite an influential musician. But for those who do not know – Born September 19, 1976, Jim David Ward is a self-taught guitarist and pianist, and the lead singer/rhythm guitarist for the band Sparta. Jim Ward is also a co-founder of the band “At the Drive-In.” He co-formed the band in 1993 when he was just 17 years old. Jim has created a huge and loyal following and also made a name for himself as a musical icon in his hometown of El Paso, Texas.
“Daggers” is a ten-tracker with an estimated listening time of 32 mins 56 secs of pure pleasure and exploration of diverse musical/lyrical horizons. The dominant musical mood is quite elevating as most tracks are either mid or moderately fast in tempo. On bass guitar was Incubus bassist Ben Kenney and on the drums was Thursday drummer Tucker Rule – both musicians were hand-picked by Jim to help bring the album to fruition. Talking to Spin.com about the entire creative process and the overall feel and influences of the album, to some extent Jim agreed that it is made up of numerous musical influences from diverse musical bands and styles but also strongly opined that it is “his album” and thus retains that much-needed authenticity. Quoting a section of the interview, Jim had this to say –
“I just ask people to go into it with an open mind, because I come with a ton of baggage, professionally. I’m 44 years old, and I’ve been touring and making records since I’d just turned 18. That’s a long time with a lot of stuff, and people have different attachments to things. I totally understand that, but I make music for me, and I hope people enjoy it. My hope is that people will listen to it with an open mind, and I don’t really care if people like it or not as long as they give it a shot.”
“Some people think ‘This band was cool, but that band wasn’t cool’ or ‘I like it when he plays country, but I hate the other stuff.’ But I’m all of those people, so I can’t be like ‘You’re right, that band was shitty.’ I was doing what I love to do, and I’ll continue doing what I love to do. Beyond that, I think the biggest thing is for people to understand that it’s a rock record. It’s not an acoustic folk record like my last one. There was a lot of talk within my team about calling this ‘the Jim Ward Trio’ or ‘the Jim Ward Band,’ but I don’t put those rules on myself. I was like ‘It’s me. It’s my fucking name. That’s it. That’s the end of the story’.”
Read the full interview here
Amalgamations of Genres
The screaming vocals and heavily distorted electric rhythm guitars on “Day by Day” only re-affirms Jim’s remark that this is a “rock record.” However, truth be told, you still can’t erase the folk influences, which can be felt in the introductory section of “Day by Day” and other tracks. Though dominantly a rock record with tones of contemporary and old-school American rock elements, traditional influences from folk, and maybe some “punk” is also very much evident in the overall musical contour of the album. As a matter of fact, without contradicting himself, Jim also insinuated that “Daggers” is a fusion of different musical elements from diverse musical styles and forms. However, genre and style are not much of major concern when appreciating a masterpiece like “Daggers” – yes! It is a masterpiece.
“What’s most exciting to me about it is that it was written almost spontaneously out of the need to express myself — not for any other reason. We didn’t know what would come out. We didn’t have any idea at all…” – Jim Ward
Leaning towards a more somber and mellow musical mood is “Keep on Failure,” which comes as track number six. The wailing distorted guitars and the somewhat worn-out but very emotional vocals of Jim speak a special but profound emotional language. The track assumes a strategic position in the album; coming in at the middle only helps amplify and deepen the emotional response of the average listener. Listening rather carefully to the instrumental melodies, a combination of highly lyrical guitar melodies enclosed in a rather slow-paced tempo, rudimentary chordal movement speaks nothing but misery and vulnerability to the soul. Even without the lyrics, this track, to some extent, paradigms one of the album’s dominant themes, which is “genuine and unrestrained self and artistic expressiveness on the part of Jim.”
There is something about the lead guitar on “Keep on Failure” that depicts deep wailing and crying. To a great extent, it seems more like an honest expression of distress, pain, confusion, and severe tiredness. This is “musical expression” and “lyrical melody” at its best. Although dominated by heavily distorted rock guitars, the drum and bass did an outstanding work cementing, guiding, and enveloping the vocals’ overall emotional message and lead guitars. The rhythm guitars, lead guitars, keys, bass, and drums all interlocked to create an evoking, intense, and highly emotional musical statement.
Notable is the harmonic relationship between the lead guitars and the rhythm guitars at the introductory part; it seemed more like a complimentary musical relationship between the two, as the lead guitar was melodically interpreting the harmonic movements of the rhythm guitars before taking on a more independent but still complementary role in the latter parts of the song. Overall, the track is cohesive, emotionally genuine, and evoking. Harmonically, the vocals lean towards a more simplistic approach. Perhaps the track “Keep on Failure” is more like the album’s soul as the position in which it occupies (track-6) is itself strategic and suggests the same.
“I’ve always used music as an outlet for anxiety and frustration. When my world has upheaval, it becomes about doing the work in front of me. Reality is OK. You can’t change the past, but you can take those lessons and you can do better.. I’ve always considered songwriting as a journey. It can guide me in the way I’m going forward. I tend to exist in the darker parts of the psyche. That’s where I’ve always been.” – Jim Ward
Lyrically, Jim leans towards a more poetic approach while still vividly painting a picture in the listener’s mind sacrificing no bit of the album’s poetic sensibility. It is a fact that “Daggers” is much a complex musical album as it is a creative/complex poetic work. Jim shows undiluted musical artistry and great poetic prowess in every line and stanza of the songs in the album. It is safe to say that Jim is as much a musician as he is a poet. A careful glance at the song titles will reveal a strong sense of poetry in track naming and overall lyricism. While trying to maintain some unconventionality and remain “truly and uniquely Jim,” the overall production also maintains some modernness and general attributes of modern American rock music. The mixing and mastering are top-notch, and every song on the album is very much radio-ready – musically and technically.
Every track on “Daggers” while maintaining individual musical and lyrical uniqueness comes together to create a cohesive and stimulating music album. Generally, the overall mood is as uplifting as it is mellow. It is safe to say that the album is an accurate replication of Jim’s inner personality as it is dark, reserved, fierce, and serious – a lot more than his previous musical projects. Although not very obvious, there are political undertones in the music, lyric, and overall composition – “I knew it was more aggressive than stuff I’ve been working on, but that was just a total reflection of four years of frustrations about everything from Black Lives Matter to Trump to coronavirus. Everything was so overwhelming and emotionally charging and depleting, so this was a reaction to that. I thought we’ll just finish it and put it up before the election as a last middle finger to [Trump]. If he wins again, whatever. If he loses, whatever. I just need to get it out.” – Jim Ward.
“Daggers” is an album everyone should listen to – it matters not if you are a fan of Jim or not. It is more than just a “first solo musical project” by a talented musician; it expresses self, time, fears, anger, and every other thing. It is not just a rock album; it is an album for all. Be you a rock, punk, alternative, or whatever fan; you will definitely find something that speaks directly to you in “Daggers” – either musically or lyrically. It is not just for Jim’s loyal followers in El Paso but also for everyone who appreciates truth, art, and life. “Daggers” is available on music streaming platforms.