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Josh Ward

More Than I Deserve – 2018 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Josh Ward

The fourth full-length release of Houstonnative Josh Ward has a mainstream '90s country feel with mixed results. Ward has a pleasant voice in the mode of Randy Travis or Keith Whitley but too often his vocal is buried in the mix. The strongest tracks are a pair of mellow ballads co-written by Ward with Wyatt McCubbin - "More Than I Deserved," a tale of lost love in which the singer reflects on mistakes made ("And she was right there beside me, right through it all/She was stronger than the whiskey that built up this wall"), and "A Cowboy Can," which sounds like it could have been a hit for Travis in an earlier era.

Otherwise solid tunes such as the mid-tempo "Another Heartache" (written by Terry McBride, Brinley Addington, Brice Long) and the ballad "Say Hello to Goodbye" (McBride, Marv Green) are hampered by processed vocals. Similarly strong uptempo tracks such as the bluesy rockers "All About Lovin" (McBride, Long and Chris Stapleton) and "Home Away From Home" (McCubbin, Jonathan Singleton, James C. Chamberlain) suffer from mainstream overproduction

All but three of the 11 tracks were contributed by outside composers, with a third McCubbin collaboration "One More Shot of Whiskey" being somewhat cliched lyrically ("I've been hangin' with the devil/I've been right down on his level"), but entertaining nonetheless with references to musical heroes with checkered reputations ("I've tried Jones and I've tried Haggard/Tried to find something sadder").

Produced by Greg Hunt (Pat Green, LeAnn Rimes), the musicianship is solid particularly with the contributions of multi-instrumentalist Milo Deering (steel, Dobro, fiddle, mandolin, viola, acoustic guitar). Despite the occasional production missteps Ward's vocals and the mostly solid tunes should appeal to devotees of '90s country.