“Put the gun down,” ZZ Ward’s voice commands in a soulful manner as she sways along to her song. Soulful, sultry and brazen, ZZ Ward brought the cool element to her unique mixture of blues, pop and folk to her show at SOhO last February.

Raised in Oregon, Ward has blues in her blood, with her inspiration stemming from listening to old rock, blues and pop vinyl records, as well as her father’s musical influences. Ward’s voice could be explained as the love child of Adele and Amy Winehouse, except that it also has a sound that is distinctly her own. Ward started her recent set with numbers like “Home” and “Till the Casket Drops,” each offering pleasantly different harmonies and melodies. None of Ward’s music is repetitive; each song inspires a feeling that is totally different from the previous song.

While songs like “Home” are sentimental and poetic, songs like “Put the Gun Down” and “Blue Eyes Blind” give a kick of female power. Maybe that’s what makes ZZ Ward so cool: she embodies empowerment and isn’t scared to sing what she thinks — something I totally respect in an artist.

Forget sappy teen washout singers that are more show and glitter than substance: ZZ is all substance with a fiery flare that attracts all kinds of audiences. It is obvious that the band she plays with is in love with her as well. Not only were they having fun performing, but there was something intuitive between all of them.

You can feel those blues hit you when Erick Walls, the touring guitarist, goes off into a riff that transcends time. It’s a sound that will get you closer to God.

Good music does this. ZZ Ward’s soulful and sincere voice along with the band is like melted butter on pancakes. Not only is ZZ Ward’s music distinctively hers, but her aura is also quite something, with her dusky speaking voice and a signature hat with a feather, emphasizing her larger than life eyes. ZZ Ward is too much her own woman to be put in the same category as a bunch of other young female singers. Sure, her music is about a boy who broke her heart, but are they songs about her pining for his love? Hell no. Instead they’re retaliation in the best way: hearty melodies and sexy rhythms that would make any guy come running.

It’s rare that so much talent can be found in someone so young; her lyrics are poetic yet bold, and her “fuck-off” attitude matches the album perfectly. Ward has a kind of demanding presence. Her album Put the Gun Down is just the start of something pretty amazing. This girl’s got it.



 A version of this article appeared on page 13 of the April 18th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus