When British indie-rock outfit Easyworld disbanded in 2004 following the letdown that was final album Kill The Last Romantic, it was expected by few that the solo efforts of lead singer David Ford would have been anything but short-lived. But, fuelled by a faithful fan base, Ford has fought to build a reputation as an incredibly gifted singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist, talents undoubtedly confirmed with the release of new album Charge.
Despite winning The Sunday Times’ album of the year for self-recorded debut album I Sincerely Apologize for the Trouble I’ve Caused…, Ford began his career living somewhat in the shadows. A (perhaps ingenious) persistence in playing the support for acts such as KT Tunstall, Richard Ashcroft and Starsailor enlisted large, dedicated followings in the UK, America and, bizarrely, Croatia; a third-party only insurance policy that was required for the risks that were to follow.
It was clear to see the confidence shine through after successful back-to-back international tours and high praise for following albums Songs for the Road and Let the Hard Times Roll led to an unusual yet brave cover of The Smiths’ classic There is a Light that Never Goes Out. However, it is with Charge that Ford could finally announce himself as one of Britain’s finest contemporary singer-songwriters.
Produced by James Brown (Foo Fighters) in Brooklyn for the price of a few pizzas, Ford can experiment without the financial constraints for the first time. The American influences are apparent from the offset with opening track Pour a Little Poison having a bluesy vibe creating an upbeat feel through simple sing-along lyrics and a canonical beat – elements Ford used with less effect in previous songs such as She’s Not The One, that slated on his solo tour of the Southern US, hence the title. Yet, this time (with the help of a happy harmonica) it works.
It is not long though before the Ford of old reappears with the angry, emotional style of Isn’t It Strange? and chilling Throwaway, songs you should expect to hear on countless perfume adverts and drama deaths in the near future. Yet intertwined amongst Let it Burn, with an unexpected funk bass at its core, and Perfect Soul with uplifting guitar licks and a bespoke brass accompaniment, makes for just the right mix of tear-jerking, foot tapping and punch the air moments.
While the poignant tracks of Philadelphia Boy and Throwaway could not present more genuine and moving accounts of past experiences, and will no doubt present some more of those special performances that have seen Ford so critically acclaimed for his live act, they are regrettably forgettable amongst a back catalogue of similar sounding dumbed down tracks. This is even more the case when followed by album highlight of Every Time, a 6-minute ode embracing the highs and lows of Ford’s fluxing career. Passion and emotion run amok as he tells of ‘every chance I got to stand on my two feet, I fell/I was lucky everything fell into place’ to the powerful, hair-raising finish of ‘I know it’s a fight that I’m not going to win/but I’ll choose this motherf***er and I’ll choose it again’. Cue goosebumps…
Overall, Charge is Ford’s best album to date. Its range, of not only emotions but across genres also, is clearly the result of being freed from the shackles of labels of old. It’s a risk you feel might finally threaten to break Ford, albeit reluctantly, into the mainstream he has managed to evade for so long. Charge scores a very respectable 74%.
BY PHIL MOODY