WTW Music Ltd
Release Date: March 10th 2023
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Music In The Madness
- Next To You
- All Over Again
- If It All Ends Today
- Justice & Mercy
- Love Does
- Joan Of Arc
- I Think I Hate You
- Loved By You
- Flower Crowns
Ever since 2019 and our ever-on-going blog series (which we’re still in the middle of!), I’ve been branching out and listening to music that I wouldn’t normally in the past. And I’ve found that ‘mainstream’ music, which was marketed to me as ‘bad’ and ‘evil’, actually isn’t. These people who are singing songs for the mainstream media, are just people, and ordinary people like you and me. Country music is the genre (apart from CCM), which I have been most hard-hit by in a good away, and I’ve found that I’ve resonated greatly with artists like Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett, Shania Twain, Lindsay Ell, Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Runaway June, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, Lady A, Tenille Townes, Tenille Arts, Maddie & Tae, Mickey Guyton, Walker Hayes, Carly Pearce, Lauren Alaina, Alana Springsteen, Gabby Barrett and even Taylor Swift. Even though I’m not American, it is these artists above who have helped place this genre in a special place in my heart. And as we’ve reviewed country albums over the years and seem God move in ways beyond imagination and comprehension with these artists, and as we’ve seen God be praised and given the glory in the marketplace; here we are in 2023 with another ‘new-ish’ artist and their heartfelt, honest, inspiring, vulnerable, and poignant music.
Ward Thomas, consisting of twins Catherine and Lizzy, are not exactly a new band. The country duo have released 5 albums (one of them this year), and they’re one of the U.K.’s most popular country acts alongside The Shires. But they’re certainly new to me, and probably new to most of Australia, America and anywhere else outside of the U.K. Over the past few months, I’ve seen Ward Thomas and their singles from the new album Music In The Madness pop up in many of the curated Spotify playlists on many Fridays (which is where I search these days to find new and up-and-coming artists); and so one day I took the plunge and started listening to their music. While Catherine and Lizzy may not be the most recognisable artist (duos like Dan + Shay, Brothers Osborne and Maddie & Tae are pretty original and lead the pack as far as country duos go in my honest opinion!), Catherine and Lizzy’s music is still powerful honest, vulnerable, resonating, hard-hitting and compelling. The duo released their latest album Music In The Madness in March this year. And though I’m not really the target audience here (as I’m a single white male living in Australia!); the release of Ward Thomas’s latest, is still immensely deep and meaningful in a lyrical sense, and inspiring to the max as well.
I think there is definitely a lot of that music being made, but from a consumer point of view, I like to listen to things that make me feel good as well. So I can imagine there’s a lot of things that you end up listening to on the radio that make you feel free and happy, which is a lot of what we were trying to do in this album. The idea was like, ‘Let’s still celebrate the wins because it can all feel very overwhelming.
Also, now we’re in an age where everyone’s their own tastemaker and can go and find their own music. So even if you’re not hearing that kind of music on mainstream radio and TV, you can still go and find it wherever you look. I think when you watch the news, for example, the light hearted things like music or acting or the entertainment come in at the end, because there’s only so much we can take. I think that’s probably why, in the mainstream world, a lot of the music being shown is quite empowering and feel-good.
One listen to Music In The Madness, and you will find that it is incredibly thought-provoking, as the girls dive deep into a myriad of issues that reminds you why they’re so well loved and respected in the U.K. Opening with the title track, the calm and soothing guitar led ballad sets the tone for the rest of the album, as the twins powerfully and earnestly relay that within this crazy world called life, there is beauty and wonder and awe and mystery and ‘music’ all around us, ands within the madness as well. Similar in theme to the entire album Mayhem To Madness by the McClymonts; Ward Thomas impart to us the notion that there is something worthwhile and satisfactory and fulfilling in this life, and we can find it when we stop chasing after the things we thing we want and instead just sit in the chaos and find the good in every situation. While Jesus is not explicitly mentioned here in this song, there’s still value and a positive message present as well; and isn’t that what we all want in a song? To be encouraged, uplifted and inspired? To be reminded that we’re not alone and that we can have human connection on a deeper, soul level?
The rest of the album provides us with exactly the same heartfelt inspiration and warmth as the album opener. “Next To You”, a stirring piano led mid-tempo melody, speaks about the love one person has for their partner or spouse, and that ‘…when you’re with me, everything is easy, you’re the one who gets me, you’re the one who sees me, all I wanna be is next to you, when we’re dreamin’, sharin’ our tomorrow, you’re the one I’m seein’, written in the stars, oh, all I wanna be is next to you…’; while “All Over Again” is a quasi-worship song where the girls outline that their spouse or significant other is their most important person in their life, while the track could also subtly allude to God being important in their life as well, and that ‘…for all that I went through, it led me home to you, you made beginnings out of all of my ends, for every broken path, I wouldn’t take it back, I’ll never think about what else could have been, it gave me you, so I would do it all over again…’. “If It All Ends Today”, yet another romantic guitar led ballad, speaks about an everlasting and unconditional love that lasts forever and ever, even as the world ends around us (again the song could be referencing a romantic partner or even God!); while the country/bluegrass melody “Justice And Mercy” is a story song about a person who wronged a whole society, and the deliberations by the town and the people as to what to do with this person- whether to enact justice or to implement mercy and forgiveness. It’s a fine line, figuring out when is the right time to forgive and erase the debt and when is the right time to cast stones. But the beauty of this song is that while there is no resolution; iit gets us thinking about Jesus and about eternal matters of our soul. And that, my friends is always a good thing; as one of the standout songs on the album reminds us that we ought to give people more than once chance in life, and other others give us chances us well.
“America”, an intensely profound, and powerful melody about America, is sung from an outsider’s point of view, as the girls lament about the state of America, and are grateful that they’re not in the centre of everything polarising that is happening in the U.S. at the moment; while yet another quasi-inspirational and quasi-CCM song is “Love Does”, as Ward Thomas cleverly describe the qualities of love… or the qualities of God’s Love, that ‘…on the hardest nights, something calls you, leads you through the desert and the floods, who would see a wall of fire and just walk through? That’s what love does, love does…when the world is lost, something’s found, holds the dream of peace alive in us, who could softly whisper louder than a tyrant when he shouts? That’s what love does, love does…’. “Joan Of Arc”, a defiant and empowering melody about being a fighter and a warrior and standing up for what you truly believe in, is a potent and inspiring melody, and a melody not exclusive for girls to listen to and for girls to appreciate. I reckon people of all ages can latch onto this song and claim it for themselves; while “I Think I Hate You” boldly describes a toxic and unhealthy relationship and fully realising that you hate this person and should leave the relationship, regardless of how comfortable it makes you feel.
“Unravel”, a poignant and heartfelt ballad, speaks about letting everyone know your vulnerable side, and is one of the most emotional songs on the album, with Lizzy and Catherine inviting us all to bare our soul and to let someone in fully; while “Loved By You” thematically is similar, with the girls highlighting that being loved wholeheartedly by someone special, is truly a beautiful and fulfilling feeling. Music In The Madness then ends with the emotional tear-jerker “Flower Crowns”, where the girls sing about their bond together as twin sisters, and that it cannot be broken, even by each sister growing up, getting married, and having their own lives.
It’s interesting, when it comes to genres, we never really knew where to place ourselves, even at the very beginning. We always loved country music and always wanted to listen to it, but we also loved Americana and we very much gravitated towards a lot of Americana acts. Country music was such a baby genre in the UK when we started out, and we never really knew how to place ourselves because we were just writing songs and had kind of country sounding voices. So with our voices and in terms of what we listened to, we went down the country route.
Then when we started writing Restless Minds, we didn’t want to be restricted by that genre and we wanted to feel like we could go to different places. And with that came an opportunity to discover different sounds. But every time we come back to it and look at the songs that we listen to and write, they always sound organic, Americana and country. So this album feels so perfect with the sound we’re at right now.
For us we want a career. We want to be able to keep doing this, we want to be able to keep touring and keep releasing music. The overnight fame is never what we wanted to get into, it’s never been a source of much fulfilment… fame has never been our aim!
We’re all about the fact that we are so lucky to be able to do this, to be able to write music and record it and tour. So, for us, it’s all about the music. And in a world where you don’t really know if anyone’s going to like what you do, we realised over the years that the only thing we can control is quality control. So, we just want to make the best music possible at that time and hope that everyone likes it, and if everyone hates it then at least we feel like it was good! So, for us that is what longevity is – stick to making music the best you can and hope for the best, because you can’t control anything else. And just keep developing.
The kind of albums we might be making in the next ten years will be very different to the one we made when we were 17. And that’s cool, we want to be the kind of artists who can look back at our albums and go, ‘Wow that phase in our life was this…and this… and this’, and not be driven by popularity and letting the tail wag the dog.
If you’re splitting hairs, then Ward Thomas’s Music In The Madness isn’t a typical country album. It’s a ballad album full of pianos and to the common man on the street, perhaps some songs may be a bit too ‘lullaby-ish’. However, Music In The Madness has it’s place. Sure, I would have loved more musical variety. But the lyrics and the themes are strong- and though Catherine and Lizzy aren’t popular right now, this album may well put them on the road to having a true voice in country music and to being a part of the change in this world, by providing people with hope, heart, resilience, and a sense of belonging and camaraderie. The sky is truly the limit for Catherine and Lizzy, and here’s hoping they conquer the world next after the U.K. Until then, let’s sit on this album, and maybe backtrack through their discography. Ward Thomas isn’t known at the moment. But I guarantee they will be in the next few years! Well done girls, I can’t wait to hear what’s next from you! A Christmas album perhaps?
3 songs to listen to: All Over Again, Justice And Mercy, Love Does
RIYL: The Shires, Una Healy, Carly Pearce, Old Dominion, The McClymonts, Dan + Shay, Zac Brown Band