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David Ford | CD review | 15/08/07

DAVID FORD - Songs For The Road (Independiente - Digital format 06/08/07; CD 15/10/07)

Review and Photo by Dawn

It’s not immediately obvious from an LP where the opening track is the wonderfully cutting and concisely titled Go To Hell, but David Ford’s new album comprises some of his most optimistic and outwardly reassuring music to date.

The album succinctly documents the last year and a half of Ford’s life, most of which was spent travelling and, as ever, his music spans such eclectic extremes that it proves difficult to categorise. Performed live, the aforementioned Go To Hell sees Ford backed by his own layered and looped voice à la Laurie Anderson’s O Superman or Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek. Here, though, it becomes a deceptive, string-laden ballad where, as the pace increases, so to does the acerbic nature of Ford’s lyrics.

As if to immediately demonstrate the diverse nature of his music, second song Decimate has a style and a rhythm not entirely dissimilar to The Cure’s Close To You and lyrics which, although retaining Ford’s customary scepticism, show signs that the sunshine is about to break through the clouds which have until now obscured his view of the world. Similarly, I’m Alright Now’s tale of getting through the bad times and making it out the other side is brought brilliantly to life by a lush combination of drums, mandolin, piano and gentle strings reminiscent of Damien Rice’s Amie.

Song For The Road is quite possibly the most beautiful song that Ford has ever written and, thankfully, it remains tremendously loyal to the live version which recurrently induces tears in the crowd – and, indeed, at times, Ford himself. With the sparsest of piano melodies complemented by minimal strings, it’s the poignant lyrics which provide the impact in this exquisite homesick lament. Fifth track Train continues in a similar but more up-tempo vein, before the lyrics of St Peter see the return of Ford’s cynical side, not to mention the most sinister lyrics on the album (“there is nothing so deadly as the forces of right / or some fool with a shotgun in a house painted white”), both of which seem to belie the song’s relatively mellow beginning.

Perhaps worryingly, the shotgun lyrics precede Nobody Tells Me What To Do, a paean to drinking copious amounts of alcohol (“gimme the same again”). Thankfully, though, this is one of the most up-tempo numbers on the album and, consequently, all such sinister thoughts are quickly pushed aside in favour of the song’s rousing melody.

With its derisive observations, wonderfully quiet opening and the addition of a new instrument with every verse, Requiem is undoubtedly this album’s State Of The Union, its biting, political lyrics taking the song to its startling climax in a deafening cacophony of guitar, brass, harmonica, drums and vocals. A complete contrast, the fragile ...And So You Fell is the perfect way to end the album, its tender lyrics and atmospheric guitars reminiscent of Richard Hawley or Micah P. Hinson’s finest moments.

Ford is one of Britain’s best contemporary lyricists; a fact which is even more evident on this LP than on his first release. If debut solo effort I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I’ve Caused was an album about life’s constant disappointments, Songs For The Road exists to make you feel altogether more positive about dealing with such tribulations, not to mention heartened by the fact that it’s much easier when you don’t have to face the world alone. Forget the lazy singer-songwriter comparisons which have been bandied about in the press; to put it bluntly, David Ford is in a class of his own.

Visit DavidFord.mu for more information.

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