By Laura B. Whitmore
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist ZZ Ward digs deep for her latest offering, The Storm. Yes, this collection of 11 kick-ass tracks hearkens back to Ward’s blues influences, like Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson and Big Mama Thornton. But what brilliantly sets The Storm apart is her ability to take that form and evolve it into a supremely fresh and relevant interpretation.
It’s that little bit o’ mojo that makes it truly magical.
“I’m very into the blues, and so how do you take a very old form of music and make it work for what’s going on right now?” says the 31-year-old Ward. “Artists that can take an older form of music and make it contemporary, while remaining authentic—that’s what influences me.”
Ward—born Zsuzsanna Eva Ward in Abington, Pennsylvania—set off some sparks with her 2012 full-length debut, Til the Casket Drops. Most notably, her single, “Put the Gun Down,” generated 7.4 million-plus Spotify streams and held strong in the Top 10 of AAA radio for 10 weeks as well as receiving more than 100 high-profile licensing placements and syncs, including the feature film We’re the Millers.
With The Storm, Ward’s unique vocal swagger is punctuated by hip-hoppy rhythms, gritty guitars and a locker full of solidly embedded, catchy hooks. It’s an introspective collection that is a cathartic self-examination.
“I had been moving so fast that I hadn’t really had a chance to address a lot of stuff. So this album really was a cleaning out of my closet and facing my demons,” she reveals.
Ward turned to two guitar constants to assist in the writing process.
“I play a Collings acoustic/electric,” she says. “It’s the best guitar I’ve ever played. It has a really nice, deep sound to it and I love the way it feels in my hands. And then I also play a white Stratocaster. I love the sound out of it. Those are my two babies.”
From the opening croon of “The Ghost” to the rollicking “Help Me Momma” with its hand-jive beat, the achingly beautiful “If You Stayed” and the hard-driving “The Ride,” featuring Gary Clark Jr., The Storm delivers a good strong dose of neo-blues that will satisfy all.