The Mississippi-bred duo Thompson Ward probably won’t be offended for being described as backwoods hicks; to them, their Southern roots are a badge of honor. On this ferociously energetic debut album, Thompson Ward channel the specters of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Oak Arkansas, reviving swampy boogie rock minus the irony of today’s young Americana acts on the indie scene. Named after vocalist Steve Thompson and multi-instrumentalist Bryan Ward, Thompson Ward freely bang together their diverse influences — namely classic rock, outlaw country, funk, and Gospel — and damn the consequences. However, the group’s genre mash-ups never feel forced or less than melodic.
The opening cut, an electrified cover of Jim Stafford’s 1973 hit, “Spiders and Snakes,” explodes from the gates with chunky power chords and large, echoing drums that escaped from a Def Leppard record. Thompson’s deep Southern drawl remains its negligible connection to country music. The exhilarating “Riverside” takes the band deeper into the funk of their album title. However, unlike other pretenders, Thompson Ward doesn’t sound like some pale, white-bread facsimile of the real thing. “Riverside” truly gets down as Ward’s slamming bass lines work up an intense sweat, eventually erupting into a volcanic jam near the end. It’s like getting drunk on whiskey while trying to ride a bull. “The Hump” pumps up the speakers with fuzzy Jimi Hendrix-like riffs while the raunchy “Stank” cuts loose with mud-splashed country rock.
Oddly enough, the two best tracks on the record stray from Thompson Ward’s formula. “Theresa” is a slow-burning romantic tune with the transcendent beauty of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” while “Missy Lynd” recalls the jangly simplicity of vintage Beatles and the Hollies. The Americana scene is already becoming stale with its constant barrage of beards and balladeers. With swagger and loud amps to spare, Thompson Ward arrives late to the party but will be the only thing that people are going to remember in the morning.
Thompson Ward: www.thompsonward.com