Every once in awhile in music, amidst the complexly produced and orchestrated (for which, in their own right, there are also pleasures to be found), comes something so authentic and real that it takes you in. Such is the case with Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. They were the WXPN Artist to Watch last month and appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert which, if you’ve never checked it out, is the place to go on-line to see live some of the best up-and-coming acts and talent. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear’s performance on that program comprises the music video to follow. Rolling Stone probably made the call early, listing them at the top of their “20 Best Things We Saw at Americana Music Fest 2014”.
This family duo, mother Ruth “the Mama Bear” Ward and son Madisen Ward, are out of the Kansas City, Missouri area. Among most sources this is the totality of the bio they decide to publish, but thanks to allmusic.com we have a better feel for their roots and influences. Ruth Ward, who was born in Gary, Indiana, back in 1952, has been into music for quite some time, leaving home at the age of 19 and kicking around coffee houses with her guitar while traveling the American Southwest and Midwest, and managed to make two independent albums along the way. She met Kenneth Ward, her husband, and they settled down in Independence, Missouri, where they raised a family with Ruth putting her musical dreams on the back burner. Madisen, who was born in 1988, shared the love of music that animated his mother. Just like her, he began performing at the age of 19 at coffee houses and small clubs in St. Louis and Independence. By 2013 they were performing together in and around Kansas City and their infectious music began to draw attention. Since the Rolling Stone article I’ve run by some odd and sundry live performances of their work but now they have their first album out entitled Skeleton Crew.