Humble Beginnings
When country blues singer Ruth Ward invited her son, a budding songwriter, to perform at her coffeehouse gigs, she just wanted to help him get his feet wet as a solo artist. But it wasn't long before the Independence, Missouri, duo began blending Madisen's gritty tenor with Ruth's sultry alto. "We have a sweet-and-sour thing that clicks," says Madisen, 26. After about five years of honing their sound, the pair played in front of industry insiders last August in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Says Ruth, 64, "Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear just came alive."

Keeping It Real
Their debut album, Skeleton Crew, is a gleeful take on American folk featuring clever lyrics, up-tempo tunes and sorrowful ballads. With both Ruth and Madisen on vocals and guitar, the recordings have an appealing, unpolished sound, like a live set. "We didn't want something that you have to wear a suit to listen to," says Ruth. Madisen agrees: "No need for a pipe and slippers."

Parental Guidance
While Madisen and Ruth are typically in sync onstage, they have occasional creative differences elsewhere: "One time a DJ began playing music after a gig, and I started dancing," says Ruth. "Madisen said, 'Mom, you can't dance.' But I do have a few moves."

To hear a song by Madisen and the Mama Bear, download the O app.


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