BY JOHN B. MOORE
It takes a couple of songs into Lauren Ruth Ward’s debut full length to get rolling, but by the time you get about a minute into “Sideways,” the second track off of Well, Hell, you realize exactly why she is being praised for her strong ‘70s vibe and Jagger-like swagger.
The debut from this LA, by way of Baltimore, Blues-soaked songstress sounds unlike much of what the west coast has been churning out lately. Like an American Courtney Barnett or modern-day Chrissie Hynde, she manages to come off as remarkably self-assured, thanks to a powerfully expressive voice and earnest lyrics; all while being propped up by a solid mix of psych-blues and classic rock, crammed with power chords and sharp riffs.
Even on her slower, seemingly mellower takes, like the brilliant “Make Love to Myself” there is often that gradual swell to a more raucous ending that takes full advantage of her incredible pipes (it’s these softer to louder numbers where she seems to be excising the ghost of Janis Joplin). But above all else, it’s a song like the stop and start, distortion-laden rocker “Blue Collar Sex Kitten” where you realize just how powerful a presence Ward can be.
There is something for just about everyone on Well, Hell and if you can’t find a song you like… maybe ask yourself when you stopped liking music.
DOWNLOAD: “Sideways,” “Make Love to Myself” and “Blue Collar Sex Kitten”