David Ford’s Hurricane of Hard Times

On “Panic,” the first song on David Ford’s third album Let the Hard Times Roll, the singer-songwriter sings a torrent of angst and sin, much of which could easily be sung from the perspective of the war mongers, political villains, and apathetic enablers he takes aim at throughout the album. Lyrically, the song is an offspring of previous Ford diatribes “State of the Union” and “Requiem”, though here he’s broadened his target beyond specific political figures and seems be taking on an entire generation. Musically, Ford gives the song everything he’s got. Starting with a pretty clock-ticking rhythm, the song explodes with pulsating organ, drums and guitar into a satire on paranoia and fear.

Ford takes fewer detours into personal songs than the first two albums, instead dwelling on political and societal subjects, whether overt or metaphorical. “Surfin’ Guantanamo Bay” is exactly what it sounds like: a bluesy, surf-guitar tune sung from the point of view of a guard at the notorious American detention facility in Cuba. On the other hand “She’s Not the One” plays like a giddy break-up song, yet slyly casts former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as “the one” in doubt. On “Hurricane,” Ford sings a simmering anthem about the apathy of “a whole generation asleep at the wheel”.

The best of Ford’s political tales is “Stephen,” a hauntingly beautiful tribute to Stephen Carroll, a policeman murdered in Northern Ireland by the IRA. However, Ford focuses not on the despicable nature of the murder, but of the grace and yearning for peace felt by Carroll’s widow.  (In fact, Ford uses her line “a piece of land is only a piece of land” prominently in the song.) Easily one of Ford’s finest songs, “Stephen” exemplifies the resilience and spirit mourners are faced to accept in the shadow in death.

Ford’s knack for witty and honest personal tales is still present on Let the Hard Times Roll. He laments a former lover with “Sylvia,” a swinging, upbeat song complete with country-inspired guitar work. And in the album’s closing “Call to Arms,” Ford sings of emotional resilience and loyalty to a lover, complete with sparse guitar play and a modest choir arrangement.

At the literal heart of the album is “To Hell With the World,” a somber piano ballad that also works as the album’s mission statement: that despite all of the ills of the world, “… there are beautiful things, if you know the places they hide.” On an album full of dark and desperate lyrical content, Ford digs for those hidden places to find hopeful, buoyant melodies and silver linings. He might be singing “let the hard times roll,” but David Ford isn’t going down without a fight.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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