When Josh Ward hits the B Ryder’s stage Thursday, the 38-year-old country music singer will give his Bakersfield audience a bit of Texas-sized charisma.
“We’ll have some fun,” Ward said in a phone interview from Texas where he was set to play one of two sold-out shows opening for Cody Jinks (who will also be performing in Bakersfield on Aug. 2 at the Fox Theater).
“We try to get in there and connect with the crowd and the fans, however that may be. If that means playing a Merle Haggard song in Bakersfield, California, and having people say, ‘Wow, that was a good tribute to Merle,’ that’s what I’m gonna do. Come one, come all, We’d love to see y'all. We appreciate you having us all in your neck of the woods.”
It’s that ambition, charm and dedication that’s seeing Ward make a play for the mainstream much in the way his fellow Texan singer Casey Donahew — who performed at the Crystal Palace in May — does it: one city at a time and on your own.
Ward’s currently on tour supporting his latest album,”More Than I Deserve," a streamlined, punchy album reminiscent of early 1990s country music. A time when Colin Raye was telling stories and sticking to them, Joe Diffie was a pickup man — in more ways than one — and David Ball was in the midst of a thinkin’ problem.
“As far as the influences go, you hear it in my music, for sure,” Ward said. “The early ‘90s stuff was my thing. I love the Diffies, the Shenandoahs, the Keith Whitleys of the world. If I was going to turn on the radio, it was going to be something like that. It still is.”
He's not kidding. The track “Say Hello to Goodbye” could have come off of a George Strait album, and the track "Loving Right" was co-written by Strait's son, Bubba, keeping it in the family so to speak. With its electronic percussion effects,“The Devil Don’t Scare Me” has the most modern production of the 11 songs on the album; with low piano notes echoing Ward’s lyrical heartbreak. The album’s opener, the driving “All About Loving,” was co-written by country's man-of-the-moment, Chris Stapleton.
But it’s the track “A Cowboy Can” that puts the album on the map for me. The song, co-written by Wyatt McCubbin and based on Ward’s own personal experiences, is a declaration that it's the spirit that emboldens the person — no matter where they began. It’s also the album’s strongest song.
“To be a cowboy," Ward said, "you can be a businessman. You can be a doctor, you can be an oil-field man — a regular person — but you're getting up every day and you're going after it. And that's what it's talking about is being that cowboy: being that guy that turns his collar up no matter how hard it gets, swinging the saddle on every day.”
Along with Ward's all-ages show Thursday, Bakersfield’s nightlife will be getting an extra infusion of out-of-town country music this Saturday. Ward's fellow Texans, The Wayne Garner Band, will be at Sandrini’s Public House along with the Nashville-based Ginger Cowgirl, and the exceptional and perennially touring Johnny Cash tribute act Cash’d Out will be at B Ryder’s. The latter is an all-ages show, so for music-loving parents with more adventurous kids, take them to this show so they can get an idea of why Johnny Cash was such a big deal. Heck, some adults could use this refresher course as well.
Josh Ward, 8 p.m. Thursday, B Ryder’s Bar, 7401 White Lane. $12 through Ticketweb.com (before fees). 397-7304.
The Wayne Garner Band with Ginger Cowgirl, 9 p.m. Saturday, Sandrini’s Public House, 1918 Eye St. $5.
Cash’d Out, 8 p.m. Saturday, B Ryder’s Bar, 7401 White Lane. $12 through Ticketweb.com (before fees). 397-7304.