Since first attracting broad acclaim in 2014, then wowing us with their 2015 debut LP, Silent Movies, mother-son Missouri folk duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear have become an international sensation, festival staple, and beloved fixture of the modern folk, soul, and Americana scene. On the heels of the release of their long-awaited (and Nashville recorded) followup, Started with a Family, the group return to Music City for their first local headliner in a few years tonight, Oct. 12 at The High Watt with earnest, local retro country transplant Laura Mae Socks, out in support of her recent debut. Madisen Ward’s vibe is best experienced in an intimate space, and The High Watt promises to be the perfect room to soak in their latest material- get tickets here, then read on for more about the show!
MADISEN WARD AND THE MAMA BEAR
Made up of singer-songwriter Madisen Ward and his mother, Ruth Ward, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear first managed to attract widespread attention in 2014, though their musical journey began many years prior. In Ruth’s case, the singer-songwriter, born Ruth Whitlock, first picked up a guitar at 19, and began writing songs inspired by ’60s folk and rock, performing at coffee shops and touring throughout the midwest in the 1970s. After getting married and settling down in Independence, Missouri, in the suburbs of Kansas City, Ruth’s musical career slowed down as she had children and focused on family life, though she continued to play coffee shops and acoustic venues, where her youngest, Madisen, grew up watching his mother perform. Inspired by the retro influence of his family’s folk records, as well as the modern energy of rock and roll, Madisen picked up a guitar and began writing songs of his own in his teens, also hitting the coffee shop and club circuit in the Kansas City and nearby St. Louis areas. After years of musical bonding and close creative collaboration with one another at home, Madisen and Ruth began sitting in at one another’s performances, both playing guitar and Ruth adding her voice and writing input to Madisen’s lead, organically evolving into a formal band. After several years of regional acclaim, a grassroots fanbase, and local radio play, the duo nabbed a spot at Americana Fest in Nashville in 2014, attracting critical buzz and nabbing a deal with esteemed record label Glassnote, ahead of their 2015 full-length debut, Skelton Crew. A whirlwind of activity would follow, with the rootsy, story-driven folk duo making rounds on the late night TV circuit, appearing at festivals like Bonnaroo and Newport Folk Fest, and sharing the stage with a diverse array of artists like The Tallest Man on Earth, Sufjan Stevens, Pixies, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Old Crow Medicine Show, acclaimed for their soulful and engaging live show (which is filled out with a backing rhythm section) and intimate writing style. Once again opting to record here in Nashville, after several years of constant touring and sustained buzz, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear returned just last month with their long-awaited sophomore LP, Started with a Family, building upon what came before but injecting even more contemporary ethos. We can’t think of a better spot to catch the new songs live than an intimate club like The High Watt; don’t miss out!
LAURA MAE SOCKS
While Madisen Ward’s background in writing fiction often manifests as tall tales and stretched truths in his lyrical approach, opener Laura Mae Socks crafts songs so deeply personal and autobiographical, they feel ripped from pages of a diary. Born in a trailer in West Virginia, Socks was raised by a struggling dairy farmer father and a bipolar mother, leading to a young life of perseverance in the face of hardship. Though she played in country bands in her early 20s, it wasn’t until the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her mother in the same year that Laura began writing her own deeply personal songs. Spending five years on a crawfish and rice farm in Southwest Louisiana, Socks crafted her initial body of work during periods of solitude under the vast open skies of the Cajun prairie, and upon a more recent move to Nashville, those songs became her classic country influenced raw and recent debut LP, Where You Go, released this summer. A perfect compliment to Madisen Ward, if this excellent local performer hasn’t yet landed on your radar, don’t pass her up!
Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear and Laura Mae Socks will perform tonight, Oct. 12 at The High Watt. The show is 18+, begins at 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.), and tickets are available to purchase for $15.