Madisen Ward grew up watching his folk-singing mother, Ruth Ward, play acoustic guitar and sing cover songs at coffee shops in Kansas City, Missouri. As Madisen matured, he gravitated from writing fiction to writing songs that blended old-world folk with a modern pop rock sound. Mother and son began performing these new songs together, with both singing and playing acoustic guitar. Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear's debut album, Skeleton Crew, was released on May 18, 2015.
As the set opened at City Winery tonight, Madisen and Ruth sat with only their acoustic guitars. They finger-picked and alternated lead vocals on the mid-tempo call-and-response of the opening song, "Down in Mississippi," setting the tone for a homespun back-porch performance. They were joined by a bassist and a drummer on the second song. Madisen sang husky lead vocals on most of the verses, while Ruth sang with a much lighter touch. Madisen and Ruth also balanced each other by finger-picking solos when the other strummed. Perhaps because they have been at each other's side since Madisen was born 26 years ago, there seemed to be intuitive chemistry between them as they supported each other in the music. Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear performed most of the debut album, but Ruth also sang a slow, sparse adaption of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." The show ended with a rousing version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear's soulful folk concert demonstrated a potential to reach far beyond the Americana circuit.
Visit Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear at www.madisenwardandthemamabear.com.