Lauren Ruth Ward “Well, Hell”
The fact that Lauren Ruth Ward has been a hairstylist for 9 years may not immediately conjure up the image of someone who would deliver an album of psycho-blues. But what will certainly be appealing, is the references being made to Janis Joplin. We could certainly do with a strong character like Janis in the current music scene.
The moment you hear “Staff Only”, you get a sense that this album is going to be a bit special. Together with tracks like “Sheet Stains” and the brilliant title track “Well, Hell”, it has a real sense of originality about it. There are enough hooks in the tracks to appeal to a wide audience. But it will also attract the ‘cool’ kids who have been enticed by the more ‘off the wall’ approach of Courtney Barnett.
Whilst the sound is certainly original, the one artist that it does remind us of is Shilpa Ray. Given she was our favourite discovery of last year, that’s quite a compliment. The comparison comes partly from the vocal style which quickly moves from smooth to loud and rasping on songs like “Sideways” and “Did I Offend You”.
But, it’s also as much to do with the attitude on display. When you hear songs like “Make Love To Myself” and “Blue Collar Sex”, you are left with the impression of an artist committed to her music. They also suggest that Lauren isn’t a person to mess with! Although, that doesn’t mean she isn’t also able to deliver a softer, acoustic ballad in the shape of “Travel Man”.
This is a short, sharp and punchy release. It pulls off the rare feat of being both engaging but slightly challenging at the same time. Similar to an artist like Nick Cave, you kind of feel that you’re dealing with an intelligent and inspired musician. Against the backdrop of so much ‘bland’ music, this album just sounds ‘real’ and alive. The result is that Laruen Ruth Ward comes across as the smart and talented friend we would all like to have.