Robert Ward, Fear No Evil (Black Top Records)

The first vibrato-laden notes of Robert Ward’s guitar grab your spinal column and crawl up your back like The Tingler. With all the expressiveness of a column of Leslie speakers hooked onto a screaming Hammond B-3 organ, Ward’s guitar plumbs the depths of soul. I had no idea who Ward was until I picked up this disc in April, but the sound was immediately recognizable. A few years back I found a single by Ward’s first band, The Ohio Untouchables (recorded back in the early Sixties for Lu-Pine), at a yard sale, and was brought to my knees by the same trembling guitar licks that emerged from the murky mix like the bubbles of a deep sea diver. A reprise of that obscure single “Your Love Is Amazing” leads off this deep soul collection of 14 Ward originals. The liner notes here credit the trembling stereo vibrato of Ward’s Magnatone amp for providing the guitar punch behind the Falcon’s Lu-Pine recordings. The gutsy singing and 12 new tracks convinced me there is a lot more to the Robert Ward story than a guitar and an amp. Ward is a great unrecognized soul talent, and the folks at Black Top have let him do his thing. Fear No Evil joins recordings of Eddie Hinton, Robert Cray, and Toots in Memphis as one of the great soul discs of recent years.