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October 11, 2007

David Ford – Songs For The Road

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Phil Brown

David Ford is one of those gems from the troubadour scene with the Glengarry-esque ethic of ‘Always Be Touring’. The past year has seen him make his way from Northampton to Texas, conscientiously acquiring as many fans as he can fit into earshot along the way. When he returned from the States for his traditional ‘Milk & Cookies’ Christmas gig in Lewes, it was with the poise and gravitas of a songwriter ready to raise his game, and this latest release, Songs For The Road is the perfect pivot about which to achieve this.

Weighing in at just nine tracks and thirty minutes in length, Songs represents the distillation of two years’ worth of mid-tour compositions from one of the more masterful members of the British acoustic scene. A notable evolution from the Spartan instrumentation of his debut album, Ford has boldly ventured into more epic territory with this release, padding the timbre of the first three tracks with a full string orchestra and even furnishing the album’s title track with an out-of-character trombone solo.

One can understand Ford’s reasoning for beginning his solo career with a more-or-less ‘one-man-and-his-acoustic’ instrumentation, as he had just split from ‘Easyworld’, a band that retrospectively appears to be David going about his musical business with a couple of teenage Smashing Pumpkins fans playing guitar and drums over the top. However, the effect of his recent readiness to work with a full band has given his sound the added sophistication of a songwriter who can competently write a part for a string quartet, such as opening track Go To Hell, without over-crowding the back-to-basics sound that endeared him to us in the first place.

Stand-out tracks on the album are Decimate, a song that was first composed using a percussion loop created by tapping type-writer keys, and Nobody Tells Me What To Do, a rare celebration of the life of the lonely single man. These are also the two songs that fully encapsulate the important effect of Ford’s use of a full band on his new album. Whilst his voice has always been an astounding hybrid of charm and melancholy with a vocal range to make most pop-stars jealous, and his lyrical ability putting him a cut above your average guy with a guitar and a broken heart, it is hard to listen to Ford’s early work without the strange feeling that you’re just listening to the work of a man in need of a hug. With songs such as Decimate however, we see Ford up the stakes somewhat and vie to make us cry and tap our feet at the same time, hitting us with one of those rare hybrids of ‘heartfelt’ and ‘catchy’.

I would recommend this album to anyone who likes Damien Rice but wish he’d just grow a pair of balls and get over it.


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