Rising from the ashes of his San Luis Obispo-based combo Rodriguez (one self-titled album, produced by Grandaddy's Jason Lytle), Ward's solo career began in 2000 when Giant Sand's Howe Gelb took a shine to his music and released Ward's debut disc, Duet For Guitars #2, on Gelb's Ow Om label. End Of Amnesia, Ward's introspective 2001 sophomore effort, sounds like it was recorded in a dusty attic between ancient steamer trunks and long-forgotten dress dummies. The vocals appear almost as an afterthought. When he started singing, it was just another vehicle for the guitar, Ward says. "Guitar has always been my main passion. I feel like I'm learning over the past couple of years how to make my singing more of an instrument."
Ward is at a loss to explain the origin of his singing voice, a three-pack-a-day rasp that sounds like it should come from a 75-year-old Mississippi Delta bluesman. It's as much a non sequitur as the Southern-fried vocal delivery used 40 years ago by Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty, a man who grew up just north of Oakland, Calif. "I don't smoke," Ward says. "I started recording in my parents' house when I was 16 and, not wanting to wake anybody up, you just start to sing quieter and play quieter. I think that's why my voice is so messed-up. People who only know the records think I'm really old or from the South.Ã¢â‚¬Â