Join UK Americana and country pioneers Ward Thomas for their Shrewsbury debut!

From a chart topping album as teenagers to receiving the Country Music Association’s Jeff Walker Global Achievement Award in recognition of their success and impact on country music in the UK, Ward Thomas have cemented their position with the recent release of their latest album, Music in the Madness.

The twins’ remarkable fifth album, is both a harmony-soaked balm for shattered souls and an uplifting reminder of what really matters.

Love, family, unity and the healing power of music are recurrent themes on an album begun as war broke out in Ukraine and the world went into a post-Covid tailspin. While most of us struggled to sit through the news, Catherine and Lizzy did as they have for a decade – wrote songs to make sense of what they were seeing.

“In Ukraine in particular we witnessed these wonderful, moving moments of music in the madness,” says Catherine. “Soldiers singing the national anthem and getting married on the front line. The viral video of the girl in a bomb shelter singing Let It Go. In times of crisis, music matters even more. That’s what we set out to celebrate.”

A trip to Nashville in February – the Hampshire sisters’ second home since they recorded their debut in the city while still at school – nailed the spirit of the album. The first song written was the joyous title track, an Abba-meets-Americana ode to hope.

“It’s not about looking on the bright side,” says Lizzy. “It’s about finding the bright side which is already there, however hard it is sometimes to see.

“We’ve written in the past about the downside of social media. Now we’re seeing it as a force for good. It’s been a conduit for bringing people together, for sharing stories, songs and hope in the scariest of situations.”

Also begun on that Nashville trip was the mighty Justice and Mercy, the album’s first release before the title track drops as the official lead single in January. Unusually for Ward Thomas, the creepy country corker is a fictional tale, inspired by the pair’s shared love of true crime podcasts.

“It’s a fun story song about a wrong ’un who ruins lives on his travels and meets a sticky end,” says Lizzy. “I imagine it set in the ‘20s Western States, although we part based the psychopath on Putin.”

“There are two outcomes when you listen to true crime – one merciful, one justice-driven. Either the perpetrator has to die or his soul can be saved. There were some deep, bleak, religious discussions in that writing session. If one of us was murdered, would the other be team justice or team mercy?”

Ward Thomas returned to Hampshire with half a dozen songs captured mostly as voice memos on their mobiles. Sonically, some were a blank canvas, others steeped in the Country for which the duo are best known or veering towards the Americana of their most recent influences.”

“At the moment we’re listening to lots of Brandi Carlile, The Highwomen and Chris Stapleton,” says Catherine. “We still love the classics, the Carole King school of storytelling. Rather than stick to a specific sound, our plan was for the production and arrangements to be earthy and organic.”

In a first for the duo, the songs were recorded with their longstanding live band, at the suggestion of producer Ed Harcourt, which brought their live chemistry into the studio.

“Ed’s quite quirky, a real-deal musician, so perfect for these songs,” says Lizzy. “The process was mostly writing in Nashville, then coming home to record, usually at Jimmy Hogarth’s studio in West Hampstead, sometimes at Ed’s place.”

Before a second trip to Nashville in July, following a celebratory Glastonbury set, there was a time out for Catherine to get married. Both hen-do and wedding were typical Ward Thomas.

The former featured egg and spoon and sack races, apple bobbing, a scavenger hunt and ‘gymkhana’ drinking games – “jump without spilling your beer”, as organiser Lizzy describes it. The latter dispensed with cake-cutting, bouquet-throwing rituals in favour of a huge party in a marquee.

Catherine may insist that little has changed, but the love in the air left its mark. One of the album’s key tracks from the second Nashville trip is the acoustic spine-tingler Love Does, on which unusually the duo harmonise from start to finish and the lyrics will bring you to tears.

“That’s perhaps our favourite song we’ve ever written,” says Lizzy. “It’s not necessarily a single, but the lyrics capture the heart of this album, in particular the line ‘Who could softly whisper louder than a tyrant when he shouts? Love does’.

“Life is so mixed up and messy. Love is its stabilising force. Love in all its forms is what saves us. It makes us do the most insane things, makes us stay when it’s easier to go, makes us walk through fire for someone. Nothing competes with love. And when a crisis happens, you see it in bucketloads.”

The power of love anchors the poppy, piano-led If It All Ends Today and the album’s most vulnerable, stripped-back song, Loved By You, about relationship anxieties and self-destruction.

“Loved By You is really raw sounding because of the subject matter,” says Catherine. “It’s so open and honest and personal. The verses take you through fear of commitment to feeling broken to finally looking forward to the future. It’s a deep love song, written for anyone with anxiety issues.

“We recorded the piano with a mic by the pedals, so you can hear some of the squeaks. It accentuates the raw feeling. It’s the opposite of a typical love song, despite the happy ending.”

Co-written and produced by former Cage The Elephant guitarist Lincoln Parish, All Over Again is an emphatic ode to no regrets steeped in synths and shimmering guitars. Next To You the sisters call Carry You Home 2.0, a follow-on from the lead single from 2016’s chart-topping Cartwheels, which could be about their own bond or a romantic relationship.

‘Joan of Arc’ is a battle anthem co-written with Ed Harcourt, about fighting back and standing up for yourself, while the closer on Side A of the album vinyl is a spectacular reworking of Razorlight’s ‘America’ drenched in the twins’ trademark harmonies.

“We love the challenge of playing around with a song and making it our own,” says Lizzy. “Are we Razorlight fans? Not especially, but we do adore that song.”

Still only 28, Catherine and Lizzy are on a roll, already working on a sixth album which they plan to release before they turn 30.

“We have so much new music we can’t wait to take on tour,” says Catherine. “We’re hoping to have an extremely busy 2023. Our tour starts in March on our 29th birthday and we have more we want to achieve before we hit the 30 milestone.

“We look up to artists like Brandi Carlile, whose career has grown organically. Of course, we love success, but the artists we admire are the ones who keep showing up and don’t sell out. We do what we do because we love music and we have something to say. For as long as that continues, there will be Ward Thomas.”