Live Review: Kristen Ward at The Tractor Tavern
Kristen Ward, also out to celebrate her new album, Last Night on Division, put on a rocking show flanked by two extraordinary guitarists. One was Justin Davis, most recently from Star Anna and The Laughing Dogs. The other was veteran Gary Westlake of Flight to Mars fame, among other legendary bands. Gary armed himself with several guitars and a mandolin, racked and ready. Keith Ash, also a Laughing Dog, was strong on bass. Drummer Simona Bressi pounded out a rock beat while looking gorgeous, as Kristen pointed out to the audience.
Kristen started her set with “Last Night on Division” the strong title track off her new album. The full band sounded fantastic, and the audience pushed forward for a closer look. Kristen has a rich alto voice made for country, but can wail on the rock songs, too.
She slowed it down just a bit and played some sweet love songs from the album, including “A Man Like You” which had a flowing solo from Gary and “Saved By Love”, an uplifting song, with clear harmonies from the band. “My Love” reached into the higher register of Kristen’s voice in the chorus and echoed beautifully throughout The Tractor.
The band picked up speed again with “Rodeo”, which starts out with a riff right out of “Last Dance with Mary Jane”. Kristen encouraged the audience, especially those in front to dance or “just move!” This was my favorite song of hers; it is the definition of country rock with a yodel in the lyrics and a nasty, grinding rock solo by Gary toward the end. She also played “I Wanna Be”, her single worthy of the Americana charts and available as a free download on her website.
Near the end of the set, Kristen laughed as she told the audience they probably expected a quiet acoustic set from her, not a rock show. I saw her perform once before when she opened for Todd Snider in 2009. It was an acoustic show; and although she played a memorable opener for Mr. Snider, tonight’s show was a pleasant surprise. She finished off the set with what she called a blast from the past–a song called “Baby” from the 2008 album Drive Away. The crowd responded with hearty cheers after her triumphant performance.