Diane Ward and Jim Berry: Two Local Timeless Musicians

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week, different avenues back to the future.

Music is a transcendent thing, and the process of experiencing it can take both artist and audience into realms where past and present become indistinguishable. I offer as examples two recent releases from a pair of South Florida artists, each very different from the other, but whose grasp of the timelessness of treasured styles shows certain similarities.

I'll start by mentioning Diane Ward's superb new album, Beautiful Ways, a set of songs that lives up to its title. Ward, long a staple on the South Florida scene, has put aside her folkier musings, at least for the time being, and come up with a collection of tunes that demonstrates both her confidence and maturity. An initial impression shows that it's similar to a set of standards, compelling, concise, and delivered with conviction. These are songs your parents might love, and yet they work on a variety of levels -- as late night laments, as jazz-infused ballads, and in the case of "Motorcade" in particular, a tune that Chrissie Hynde would likely be proud to call her own.

With Beautiful Ways, Ward has not only reaffirmed her ranking as one of our area's most talented singer/songwriters, but also shown that her excellence and ability clearly qualifies her for long overdue national recognition. Suffice it to say, it's simply that striking.

Like Ward, Jim Berry is a sort of old school artist. While his day job as sportscaster at CBS4 has made him a well known figure throughout South Florida, Berry's pursuit of a singing career brought him a different kind of attention.

He's been performing around Miami for several months now, but his new EP, the aptly titled Renaissance Man, will hopefully bring his music to a wider audience.

Indeed, it shows him off as quite the crooner, particularly on songs such as "Lockdown" and "Soul Man," in which he expresses his fondness for a supple soulful style that's both easy and alluring. Nevertheless, its most affecting moment comes with "Someone I Didn't Know," in which he recalls a meeting with the father he never knew and laments the fact that his dad passed before the bond could be fully embraced.

If Renaissance Man is any indication of what we can expect down the road, then clearly Berry's performing skills might someday rival his sports savvy.

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