Guitarist Peter Ward announces an October 20 release date for his new CD, Blues on My Shoulders, on Gandy Dancer Records. Besides Ward on guitar and vocals, special guests on the new disc include multiple Blues Music Award-winning guitar legend Ronnie Earl, Sax Gordon Beadle on sax and the members of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones: Sugar Ray Norcia (vocals and harmonica), “Monster” Mike Welch (guitar), Anthony Geraci (piano), Michael “Mudcat” Ward (Peter’s brother – bass) and Neil Gouvin (drums).
“It pleases me to present Blues on My Shoulders, my first solo project,” Peter Ward says about the new album. “I wrote the words and music to 12 of the 13 songs. I grew up wearing out the vinyl records trying to understand how Robert Jr. Lockwood, Tiny Grimes, Louis Meyers and Jimmy Rogers made songs sound so good. It's what I wanted to do. I was lucky to sit in often with my friend (and former roommate) Ronnie Earl and play alongside many of my musical heroes. A highlight was touring with the Legendary Blues Band: Joe Willie ‘Pinetop’ Perkins, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, Calvin ‘Fuzz’ Jones and Jerry Portnoy, who had brilliantly backed Muddy Waters for years. The way they played blues was everything I believed in, then and now. Willie Smith was an inventive drummer — and a wily character. I pay tribute to him in the song, ‘Drummin' Willie.’ The track ‘Which Hazel’ is my homage to Chuck Berry. Sugar Ray Norcia honored me by singing the heck out of ‘Collaborate,’ a tribute to Lockwood and Lonnie Johnson. I appreciate that Ronnie Earl and Sax Gordon Beadle accepted my invitation to perform on two songs: ‘A Little More’ and ‘It's On Me.’ ‘Southpaw’ is my ode to lesser-known left-handed swing guitarist Dickie Thompson, who worked with organist and front man Wild Bill Davis. My instrumental, ‘Shiprock,’ reminds me of a hallowed part of Navajo country I visited with my wife Mai Cramer, who died of breast cancer in 2002 and previously hosted a popular blues program every weekend for 24 years on WGBH-FM. She was an avid supporter of the blues and its purveyors. I think she would have liked Blues on My Shoulders. I hope you do.”
As a teenager growing up in Lewiston, Maine, Peter and his brother Michael (“Mudcat”) listened intently to blues records and went to see Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Taj Mahal and Hubert Sumlin whenever they performed in the area. Peter played blues with Mudcat and did gigs also with his younger brother Jeff, who died in 1991. “Jeff was too young to drink, but club owners would let him in so he could play bass with New York City drummer Ola Dixon and me,” Ward recalls.
Ward later moved to Boston and played in various bands, frequently sitting in with Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, who then featured his brother and Ronnie Earl, and backed blues artists such as Jimmy Rogers, Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson and Lowell Fulson.
“In the Big Apple, I was thrilled when Otis Rush told me I played chords like an ‘old man,’ Ward remembers. “In 1978, each week I drove across I-90 to Rochester, N.Y. to play blues for three nights with guitarist-vocalist Joe Beard. Beloved there, Joe had once been a neighbor of Son House. In the 1980s, I loved everything about touring with the Legendary Blues Band — the traveling and camaraderie, but especially the way we played blues in an unhurried, improvisational way. We recorded a CD for Rounder Records that featured Duke Robillard, whose brilliant guitar I had first heard at a high school dance.
“I married Mai Cramer, who spun records for Boston station WGBH-FM every weekend from 1978 until 2002, when she died of breast cancer. Her fans and I stage a fundraiser in her honor each spring for charity at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass. Headliners have included Jody Williams, Luther ‘Guitar Junior’ Johnson, Lurrie Bell, Ron Levy and Eddie Taylor, Jr. In 2010, I produced Goodbye Liza Jane: Hello Western Swing, a CD of western swing (a cousin to the blues) with Herb Remington, an original member of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. In recent years I've begun writing songs, as I culled the many snippets of melodies and phrases stuck in my mind. It's fun to turn thoughts into songs and then sing them while people dance. It's been a blast, and it's not over.”