It’s beyond cliché to say that a life-changing medical emergency can change a person’s perspective. But that’s exactly what happened to Rev. Marvin Ward, a veteran Columbia singer/songwriter/poet. His new album, Shine, is the direct result of a severe stroke he had back in 2017.
“You know, there’s nothing like almost dying to slap you in the face and wake you up,” Ward laughs. “I really started to look at things differently.”
The stroke was especially traumatic for Ward because he wasn’t having any health problems at the time.
“I was at a chiropractor,” he says, “and the chiropractor was adjusting my neck and pinched the carotid artery, and that’s why I had a stroke. So I had a lot of anger issues that I was dealing with because of that, and I was dealing with the fact that my mortality is now an issue — a very big issue. I’ve outlived a lot of my friends and other musicians that I have worked with over the years, and it just made me look at things a lot differently.”
Miraculously, Ward was still able to sing, write and play guitar after the stroke, and he found an outlet for dealing with his emotions in songwriting. As he began to recover physically, he started writing the songs that would eventually become Shine.
“I was able to write about things that were happening during the healing process,” Ward says. “And as I resolved those issues and gained peace within myself, I was also able to look back at some unresolved issues in my past and to find resolution to feelings that I hadn’t fully found closure for in the past.”
But you don’t really need to know any of that to enjoy Shine as a collection of songs. Kicking off with a terse, tight instrumental called “Horizontal Bop,” Ward unleashes some roadhouse blues-rock thunder on the first three tracks, playing some tasty solos and singing with gusto.
But there’s an unexpected twist when the title track settles into an infectious reggae groove. As the song bounces along, Ward’s lyrics take the listener inside his new perspective.
“As you start to wander down the road of life,” the song begins, “Avoid the missteps that lead to trouble and strife.
“Be true to your vision of what lies ahead,” it continues, “Let your heart guide you without fear or dread.”
It’s easily the most personal moment on the album, and interestingly enough, Ward isn’t the one singing it. Vocalists Jenn McAllister and May Kirby trade off throughout the song.
“I’ve lost about half an octave in my range,” Ward explainss, “which may be part of the reason that I didn’t sound good trying to sing ‘Shine.’ I didn’t like my voice on it. Jenn and May have been the backup singers for dozens of other projects and bands, and I said, ‘It’s about time you guys took center stage and had a song that was yours.’ And that’s why I got them to do the lead vocal. It was a bit difficult because the song of course has a very personal meaning to me, but it was all so thrilling to hear someone else’s interpretation of the lyrics. And I dearly love Jenn and May.”
Indeed, Ward has a lot of love for everyone who played on Shine, which is why it’s subtitled “with Friends & Family.” When he started recording the album, Ward gathered a tight-knit group of like-minded musicians to support him, including harmonica player Jim Couillard, pianist Gary Erwin (aka Shrimp City Slim), bassist Todd Edmunds, percussionist Davin Lail and drummer John Picard.
“That was the idea behind the project,” he offers. “I wanted to include all the bands and people that I have been playing with and interacting with over the last 10 years who have become like my family. That’s why it’s called ‘Friends & Family.’ These musicians really are family to me. These are the people that I interact with on a daily basis.”
Ward, who will host a listening party for the Shine album at The White Mule on Sunday, says that he’s thrilled to share his new music with people.
“It means more than anything that I got to do a musical project included people that I love and respect,” he enthuses. “And to me, it’s also a manifestation of the blessings that I have received by being able to heal from this incident.”
What: Rev. Marv Ward’s Shine listening party
Where: The White Mule, 711 Saluda Ave.
When: Sunday, Dec 22, 5 p.m.
More: 803-708-5908, whitemulemusic.com