Peter Ward Train to Key Biscayne Gandy Dancer Records
Peter Ward doesn’t mess around. He opens Train to Key Biscayne with Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson singing an ode to himself entitled, “The Luther Johnson Thing.”
This song, like most of Train to Key Biscayne, is like going from ‘winter to spring.’ There is joy captured in this recording, the pleasure that comes from playing the blues with friends.
Massachusetts-based, Ward years ago played with the Legendary Blues Band, backing Pinetop Perkins, “Big Eyes” Smith, “Fuzz” Jones, and Jerry Portnoy—Muddy Waters’ band—and has a more than solid resume for playing the blues chords, “like an old man.” He’s got the soul for the music running through his veins, and one can hear it on the dozen tracks comprising his second album.
While several guests aside from Johnson join Ward on this memorable journey through Chicago blues stylings, the solid-core of the album is Mudcat Ward (bass), Neil Gouvin (drums), and Anthony Geraci (piano.) Ronnie Earl plays on one track—“Blues Elixir (Ronnie’s Here,)” and gets name-checked within “A Westerly Sunday Night,” one of three songs sung by resident-harp player Sugar Ray Norcia.
Johnny Nicholas sings a pair of songs, both memorable and finely crafted performances. When he sings of a “good-looking woman playing bass in a country band,” who steals his wedding ring (“Change Ain’t Never For the Good,”) one believes him.
Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson also sings a couple. “I Saw Your Home” is a rock radio anthem, a tale of a shared journey into the past. “Coffee Song” is similar in style, if not mood; a flirty song of metaphor, this song is further heightened by Hank Walther’s organ-playing.
Ward sings only two numbers; I suppose with friends like his, there is nothing wrong with stepping aside. His voice is distinctive and possesses some gravel; “Something Always Slows Me Down” is a fine blues jam.
Ward’s guitar playing throughout Train to Key Biscayne is enjoyable, slick licks in spots but mostly complementary to the needs of the song. The instrumental “Supposedly” has a 60s country vibe, while “As Long As I Have A Chance” is similarly retro.
This is an enjoyable album, filled with band-interplay and smokin’ vocals. Ward has crafted strong songs. Come for “The Luther Johnson Thing,” stay for the Peter Ward experience.