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Robert Ward: New Role Soul

Robert Ward is a prolific songwriter whose unique guitar style and tone is perfectly suited to his buoyant R&B material. On New Role Soul (Delmark 741; 60:44) the Georgia-based Ward exhibits the same downhome charm and soulfully urgent vocals that have come to typify his work since the early ’60s. Along with originals like “Don’t Make No Sense,” the title track and gritty funk workout “Peace of Mind,” the chugging instrumental “Chicken Jerk” and “Somthin’ Funky’s Goin’ On,” Ward covers the moving Cecil Womack ballad “I’m So Proud to Have You for My Love,” Eddie Floyd’s “Never Found a Girl” and Joe Liggin’s rowdy shuffle “I Ain’t Drunk.” He testifies like a Baptist preacher on the 10-minute sermon “Whatever I Receive” and his wife Roberta guests on the gospel number “Ark of Safety.” Robert revives memories of Otis Redding and the Memphis sound on “I Come to Save You” and he weaves his own eccentric spell on Kenny Burrell’s instrumental “Chitlins Con Carne.” Like Ward himself, this one is a bit rough around the edges but at the center there’s a big, huge heart.

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