Review – Ilika Ward CD Release Show Icehouse Mpls 6/29/16 – Many Faces CD


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By Derek Lynch

After an opening act consisting of Mike Munson’s thick, gritty, and almost tangibly mountainous traditional blues singing accompanied by his slide guitar and a washboard, Jake Ilika and Joel Ward took the stage almost immediately. Their sound check was at once intense and good-natured (Jillian Rae warming up with a bit of Allman Brothers made me smile), setting an appropriate tone for the rest of the evening at the intimate Icehouse in Whittier. Ilika Ward Duo was joined by Rae on fiddle along with the other Midnight Riders, Max Graham on mandolin and Jeff Swanner on upright bass, to celebrate the third of three release shows for their debut full-length album Many Faces. Ilika Ward Duo is a staple of the Southern Minnesota folk scene and lends their success to both Ward’s outstanding songwriting and the vocal harmonies of the two men, which is rarely achieved by means other than spending over 12 years singing together.

The comfort level of Ward and Ilika on stage together was easily visible throughout the set, as was the effortless cohesion of the group as a whole. Complex jazz chords, lightning – fast zingers by Graham and Rae, and expressive dynamics were all pulled off as organically and as subtly as only a string band can do. Twice, Ilika Ward hit us with traditional cover songs including their take on “In the Pines”, a standard tune most often attributed to Leadbelly (or Nirvana, whatever). Mostly, however, they stuck to the more upbeat tracks of Many Faces, hitting hard with their soulful Hank Williams/Roy Orbison blend or style. Other high points of the show included their single “What’ll Be” and the foot-stomping, trading – solos outro of their final song of the evening “I Got Time”.

Ilika Ward Duo and the Midnight Riders ended on a high note, and only minutes later Alex “Crankshaft” Larson on stage was riding that high note even higher, ending the night with his own brand of rockabilly blues-punk. Ilika Ward hits the road in a couple weeks as a duo to take their songs West. Keep up with them here:


Set List:

I Could But I Won’t

Wear Out the Floors

In the Pines

Tired of Living

What’ll Be

Hard Time Hurtin’ Blues

Cold Rain and Snow

I Got Time