You may have heard the buzz surrounding Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, a mother-and-son folk duo who, in a matter of months, went from being denizens of the Kansas City coffeehouse scene to an appearance on Letterman and, this past weekend, a profile on CBS Sunday Morning. Now music fans can hear what all the well-deserved fuss is about. Skeleton Crew, the pair’s debut full-length lands May 18th, but the album is streaming exclusively now on Rolling Stone Country.
“There was a certain kind of sound that I wanted to make sure that we were staying true to, a certain organic rawness that I wanted to maintain,” Madisen Ward tells Rolling Stone Country. “[Instead] of studying a lot of other musicians and using other formats. I just wanted to capture the music in its most raw, natural state. And I feel like that was always kind of our goal.”
On Skeleton Crew, producer Jimmy Abbiss (Adele, Artic Monkeys) stays out of the music’s way as he captures the tranquil intimacy of sublime acoustic-guitar-and-vocals-only story songs like “Dead Daffodils” and “Undertaker and Juniper.” On poppier toe-tappers like lead-off single “Silent Movies” or “Daisy Jane,” and cryptic blues offerings like “Modern Day Mystery,” Abbiss adds few frills (the occasional train beat on a snare drum here, a tambourine or electric guitar lead there). That careful approach works for a set of songs that tackle life-and-death themes with character sketches and snapshots of the living that happens in between.
“There’s definitely a lot of fictional behavior in the way I write,” Ward says. “There’s a lot of tall tales. . . For me, it’s usually just about capturing emotion, as opposed to really letting people into my personal life. . . I really like to be outlandish and just come from wherever sounds good at the time.”
Currently the band has dates with Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Tallest Man on Earth and the Avett Brothers on the books, along with slots at high-profile festivals like Bonnaroo and the Newport Folk Festival.