The cover shot, of Ward looking airbrushed and sultry in black and white, is rather ominous in quite the wrong way, almost hinting at some Nashville horror within. Yet the music itself turns out to be ominous in exactly the right way, sometimes reminding you of the dark, noir-ish country of Neko Case whilst the predominantly minor key melodies are plucked out by a guitar whose twang on songs such as ‘Loneliness’ and ‘With You Again’ is washed in atmospherics, recalling Angelo Badalementi’s soundtrack to that paragon of north-western weirdness, ‘Twin Peaks.’
Crowning these brooding grooves is the voice of Kristen Ward, deep and mossy, without a hint of the over-sweetness suggested by the album cover, abetted by a unique phrasing which further distinguishes her distinctive song-writing style. In addition to the minor key menace of her work, there is a quite staccato quality which emphasises the unease and whilst the songs sometimes comes across as overly clipped, this is largely not a criticism. It lends them a unique, idiosyncratic swing best heard on ‘Shoot Me Down’ and ‘Red Roses’ which stand as the album’s highlights.
‘Drive Away’ also benefits from a very unified sound, with only occasional acoustic textures such as on ‘Let Me Go’ offering any great diversion. The credit for this principally goes to guitarist Gary Westlake whose muscular sound really ties the songs together, and whilst he might go slightly over the top on ‘Faith,’ there are some beautiful moments when his instrument intertwines with the pedal steel of Kevin Suggs. The album isn’t entirely perfect, of course. There are a couple of disposable filler tracks and it can sound too clipped, but on the whole, it’s a surprisingly individual effort.
Kai Roberts, Americana UK, June 6, 2008