ZZ Ward At Bardot Hollywood
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By Brent Burns
Every Monday night, Los Angeles-based public radio station KCRW-FM keeps music fans up with School Night, an event hosted at Bardot, the famous celebrity haunt nestled above the Avalon in Hollywood, Calif. Curated by KCRW radio host Chris Douridas, each week features a phenomenal lineup showcasing top-tier talent from around the world, and on June 25 the guest of honor was ZZ Ward, one of the most exciting new artists in my opinion.
Ward is a singer/songwriter whose artistry spins on a luminous axis of voice and soul, combining elements of blues, Southern rock and dirty beats. Her debut album, Til The Casket Drops, is due this fall and it was evident from the sold-out crowd that I'm not the only one looking forward to it.
As the overhead music faded, Ward made her grand entrance as the sounds of Big Mama Thorton's "Hound Dog" spontaneously blared from the monitors. Donning her trademark purple fedora, Ward was spotted weaving through the crowd sporting a megawatt smile across her face. But that smile quickly proved to carry a hint of mischief as the band launched into "Put The Gun Down," a song Ward told me "is about a woman trying to take my man from me." The energy in the room ignited as if a switch had been flipped as the audience sang along and freely clapped their hands.
Ward's weathered voice complements from her energetic stage presence and smoky, shimmering glare.
Whether it's breaking out her harmonica — a skill she learned from her father — or writing hooks and performing with local rappers, Ward spent her early days cutting her teeth on the sincerity of Etta James, the soul of Muddy Waters, and the power of Big Mama. Now, she's married this gritty coming-of-age story into an unlikely sound that really sets her apart. Ward isn't a clean vocalist or a smooth pop songstress, she's a jazzy, bluesy woman who owns the stage.
Ward was like a puppeteer and the audience a collective marionette. Her eight-song set formed the strings. As the tempos changed so did the wave of the crowd's movement. Ward introduced each song with insight into its creation, admitting that many of her songs were written about an ex-lover. She explained that she'd written too many songs about this one person and didn't want to write about him anymore, and that's how "Last Love Song" was born. Afterward, Ward thanked the crowd for the overwhelming applause and said, "I feel much closer to you now," as she appeared to visually close that chapter and slam into her newfound, independent level of sultry, sexy and outspoken modern blues.
To catch ZZ Ward in a city near you, click here.
"Put The Gun Down"
"Til The Casket Drops"
"Got It Bad"
"Last Love Song"
"Charlie Ain't Home"
"If I Could Be Her"
"Move Like You Stole It"
(Brent Burns is the dance/electronica GRAMMY.com Community Blogger.)