The thing that makes an M. Ward song so goddamned special is that it usually makes us love the hurt and then it makes us love the way the hurt got into us. These songs go on to then make us feel that though much has been messed up, there was some good in it. They seem to spread a message that the drunkenness that we might have experienced from the sweeter than believable moments is something that can last longer than any other kind of drunkenness. It can also be gone quicker than the beating of an eye and the hangover can set in right away. We can be absolutely woozy from moments for an unending duration or we could fall apart on the ice, cracking a tooth and bruising the hell out of our hipbone. Matt Ward makes music that rewards us with the warmest inner feeling of anyone who currently makes music, even when that feeling is essentially one of the person who got away or of a generally sour day where you and everyone else that you know is miserable and they're showing it - not hiding it, like you wish you could and they would, just to make things a little bit more palatable. This music that Ward makes is always up for being there for us when the darkness has us surrounded and our skin has felt jittery all day long, all week or all year long. It's just such a calming influence, even when the general context is still that there are storm clouds out to the west, there's no getting around them and we've been through some rough broken heartedness that's not dissipating as quickly as we would have liked it to. He takes us into those valleys that are lonely as can be and he spruces them up quite a lot. He makes them feel as if we could be okay living in them for a while, as if they wouldn't drive us nuts. We could work through the pain, or whatever it is that we're feeling, as we could come out of this funk better and stronger, ready to love again, ready to be loved. He never buries the heart and the soul that he puts into his words, always giving them to us as if they were our medicine, a syrup that we're opening up and saying, "Ahhhh," for, not fighting it, but happily letting it past the teeth and down the chute. The burn that it makes, we savor, in a way. We think that we could be getting led somewhere that's better than what we had. Ward and his hushed and smoky voice are all about picking up the pieces and building the spirit back up from the shambles that it's been lying in. It doesn't matter if some of the rebound requires time travel. He can take us back to olden days. He can take us to the whimsical and fickle future where things might be looking rosier, but there's nothing to base it on. On this session, featuring Mike Coykendall, Chris Scruggs, Scott McPherson and Carlos Forster as his backing band, Ward along with a couple bad backs and all, Ward strings us through old songs and new - one track appears on his upcoming record, "A Wasteland Companion" - all of which remind us that there might not be a better man, or a finer writer to verse us in some of the most universal feelings. Sadness and joy come out of him as if they were all candlelight, but we can always tell the difference, even when they make up such confusing hybrids.