Guitarist and composer Ward Darby, whose career in vintage rock and roll and country music spans nearly six decades, continues to mine his deep gospel roots with two new tracks that reach back to the church music of his youth in West Virginia.
Recorded in Branson, Missouri, in March 2013, “Open Up Your Heart” and “He Made It For You” come on the heels of Darby’s finely crafted solo instrumental guitar album, Old Gospel Guitar, released in 2012.
“He Made It For You” is a gentle, reassuring song about the place in eternity that the Lord has created for all of his followers. The track’s solid rhythm underscores the interplay between guitar and keyboard. “Open Up Your Heart” follows a similarly understated tempo, with a message about the peace that inevitably follows when one lays down his burdens and accepts the Lord’s gift of redemption. Darby’s seasoned vocals fill both songs with depth and character, and suggest an appreciation of the blessings of this world and a true faith in the next one.
The tracks feature a highly skilled crew of accompanying musicians: keyboardist and background vocalist Kris Spencer, bassist and background vocalist Earl Grigsby, and drummer Jimmy Baker. Grigsby and Darby go back a long way together – all the way to a series of gigs in the 1960's – and Darby had also worked with Baker on previous occasions. Spencer was the newcomer, but when all was said and done, old friends and new ones brought their A-game and delivered a pair of high quality recordings.
“We had a blast!” Darby says of the sessions. “I was very happy with the solo project, but I really enjoy working with a band. I enjoy the sound and the energy that you get from four or five live musicians working together.”
“He Made It For You” and “Open Up Your Heart” came together slowly, as part of an organic process that’s typical of much of Darby’s work. “There’s a lot of time that can pass between the marriage of a melody and lyrics, chord structure and tempo, rhythm and pace,” he says. “Many times, I’ll just let the guitar play what I’m feeling, and I’ll write it down or record it. When I land on something that feels right, I’ll play it over and over again. Sometimes I’ll find a Bible verse that fits with the instrumental I’ve created, and that’s basically how I write all my gospel songs.”
This intuitive and organic relationship with gospel music began more than six decades ago, when Darby was a young boy growing up in War, West Virginia, where his first exposure took place in the church. Although he also pursued rock and roll in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s, then veered toward country music in the late ‘60s & ‘70s. But the gravity of gospel music has always been powerful enough to keep pulling him back to his roots.
“He Made It For You” and “Open Up Your Heart” are the first two of about a dozen songs that will eventually make up a new album, says Darby. Most of them are already composed, he says, and all will be arranged and recorded in the same gospel style as the two newly released tracks.
“We had a lot of good luck with these musicians, and we came up with two tracks that I’m very satisfied with,” says Darby. “It’s just a matter of getting the time in the recording studio that fits with everyone’s schedule. Each of them is on his or her own individual path, so coordinating all of that can be challenging sometimes.”
But some parts of the process – indeed, the most important parts – come easy, says Darby. While writing gospel music might require its share of creative and spiritual energy, it’s often just a matter of getting out of the way and channeling a higher power.
“When I’m writing this kind of music, the Lord is flowing right through me, and it would be a terrible shame for me to miss that experience and let the opportunity slide by,” he says. “When the spirit moves, that’s when I pick up the guitar and express myself that way. It’s a gift – a gift and a release. I feel so much better after I’ve done it. I’ll sit down to play the guitar and it may last two or three minutes or it may last an hour or more. Whatever the case, it’s refreshing and life-affirming every time.”
In an era when nearly everything and everyone in music sounds derivative of some earlier time, guitarist and vocalist Ward
Darby is an original. An artist whose sound and sensibility was forged in the fires of gospel, country-western and vintage rock and roll, Darby is without question the real deal....more