Just a Whiny Little English Boy Singing the Blues

Singer-songwriter David Ford tackles two different musical approaches with his latest releases, with one foot in the past and one taking a creative step forward.

Ford is familiar with the process of releasing period EPs ahead of a traditional album release, as he did with his Pages Torn from the Electrical Sketchbook series in 2008-2009. Those EPs were a mixed bag of Ford songs then in development, many of which got tidied up and re-recorded for Let the Hard Times Roll. On Ford 4.1, Ford starts off this next series of EPs with a concentrated sound, paying homage to American music, most specifically blues with a slice of Americana.

The best of these new songs is “Pour A Little Poison,” an autobiographical tale of touring the great divide between the South and a “whiny little English boy singing the blues.” Ford turns a song of critical discontent into a happy, ironic sing-along. He also delves into his own personal history on “Liverpool” (also ripped from the pages of his recent book), which is perhaps the most familiar-sounding song on the EP. It’s interesting to hear Ford utilize American style music to tell his own deeply British tale.

“Song for the Republican Convention” was previously released as a very lo-fi acoustic recording on the second volume of Pages Torn from the Electrical Sketchbook. Here it’s turned into a swamp blues ramble, more emphatically underlining Ford’s disgust with the aforementioned conventioneers. However, the original version was a bit more effective thanks to its humorous charm and DIY recording. “Let It Burn” takes a more blues-by-way-of-Zeppelin approach, similar to what you’d hear on a Black Keys record, and is a more dingy departure for Ford. It’s an admirable and effective effort, but without the more interesting depth of harder Ford tunes like “State of the Union” and “Requiem.” (Tacked on as a hidden track is “Funk Toast,” a weird spoken word song of Ford’s comparison of the music industry to the practice of buying the right toaster, not something that lends itself to repeated listening.)

On Live from New York City, Ford does a run through a variety of songs from his repertoire, with a healthy mix of ballads and up-tempo surges.

Ford’s familiar loop machine skills are displayed with his runs through “Go To Hell,” “Panic” and “State of the Union.” Though with the loops he’s able to replicate the fullness of the album recordings of those songs, Ford gives each of the songs a fresh live arrangement. He’s equally as effective in quieter moments, letting his voice fill the room in the acoustic “Waiting for the Storm” and beautiful, piano ballads “To Hell with The World” and “Song for the Road,” the latter featuring sometime-collaborator Frances Law on harmonies.

The highlight of the record comes at the end of “Decimate” where Ford segues into “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” bringing the concert to an upbeat climax. The old Jackie Wilson hit also validates “Decimate,” an otherwise underrated homage to ‘60s soul and a bit of an upbeat departure from Ford’s typical sound that sounds right at home next to the Motown hit.

Both albums feature David Ford at all his various strengths and stretching into a multitude of sounds and genres. He remains a fascinating live performer, both in personality and musicianship. And it’s good to see that he’s not resting on his tried and true laurels and continues to pursue new adventures in the studio.

4.1: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆☆ ☆
Live: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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