I was very, very late to the party on this one. Every year, just prior to Christmas, we tend to pop up to Leeds for a bit of festive shopping day during which I invariably manage one or two actually presents and a few, not inconsiderably proportioned, bags of records. This time last year, give or take a day or two, I found myself rifling through the racks in the delightful Jumbo Records, looking for any number of different things that I’d been meaning to check out at some point, only to have my attention drawn to the simple but beautiful cover of ‘Volume One’, the debut offering by the double act of M. Ward – a splendid solo artist in his own right and a Folky Monster when given the chance – and Zooey Deschanel, a successful actress and a person with a funny name. I was partly drawn in due to the similarities between this cover and that of one of my all-time favourite albums, Nina Simone’s ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and partly as I’d seen the covered posted a number of times on some of the ‘Now Playing’ threads on a couple of music-themed message boards I visit. Something about it clicked and, having little knowledge of what it actually sounded like, on to the pile it went.
As we slowly crawled our way along a gridlocked motorway, it was smiles all around as this delightful little record warmed our hearts and soothed our souls. Twice, as it happens, as I was so keen to hear it again as soon as it finished. It made a late showing in last year’s top 20 list, but it really should have been higher and would have been had I not bought it late in December! Sounding partly like a sixties girl group, partly like an upbeat Joni Mitchell and partly like a lot of M. Ward songs performed by a female vocalist, it’s a wonderfully chipper wash of music performed simply for the love of it.
I’ve since realised that it makes a bloody good summer record but, playing it now, it also seems pretty well suited to cold winter nights with its general aura of festive cheer. There’s a hint of the majesty of Karen Dalton on some of the slow songs, particularly ‘Got Me’, while ‘Why Do You Let Me Stay Here’ is one of the most perfectly crafted pop songs you could ever wish to hear. There’s a second volume due out fairly early next year and I’m genuinely rather excited. If you’ve not allowed this gem of a record into your life yet, it might be time to do something about it. Now, time to plan the trip to Leeds to find something that I’ll later realise should have gone in this list.