In a time not lacking in sensitive guitarists who would love to spill their weepy hearts all over us, David Ford succeeds in making his musings unique with his charming demeanor and stunning performance techniques. The singer-songwriter categorization may not thrill every music fan, but last night at the Bowery Ballroom Ford quickly put doubt to rest with his short yet captivating set. What makes this fellow stand apart from the rest began this evening with the simple shoosh of a maraca, shaken carefully for the length of one or two measures and then looped back to create a consistent backbeat. He continued on in this manner with an alarming number of sounds and instruments added to a whole that was eventually reminiscent of an entire backing band. This sort of self-accompaniment is not only captivating for the unique oddity it carries, but also in that the singling out of each part gives the audience a glance into the creative process of the artist, and in doing so teaches them a thing or two about making music. I mean, sure, a big band making a big sound can be incredibly pleasing to the ear, but how often can the average music fan truly understand the process behind this whole that’s so actively commanding their attention?
David Ford’s collected sound is aided in a grand way by his impressive vocal range. He began the set opener “Go To Hell” by singing a few verses softly over the backing parts he’d generated. As the song progressed he added “oohs” and “aahs” to the looping tracks to give his creation the delightful effect of harmony, and he eventually reached a crescendo of many David’s from hum to cathartic scream. A similarly fine moment came when he used the same construction techniques to perform the song “State of the Union,” the end of which had him standing on his chair wailing and pounding out piano chords with his foot, sounds that all the while were being looped mind you. This brings up another point of emphasis — I’ve not in my day seen such a device as the one he was using in the stead of a normal, boring ‘ol piano. This dude packed a rigged up mini player piano with an effects board jammed into the top part somehow, so that he was able to alternately play soft piano numbers and accordingly rockin’ blasts for the looped numbers. What an eclectic young man.
Ford’s engaging performance style is a talent that would entertain a variety of listeners. At the times when he puts the fancy machinery aside and simply sings a guitary love song, he may lose a bit of his “Wow, who is that guy?” charm, but there is nary a moment that does not come infused with a clear passion for his words and his sounds. Lyrically Ford shares in the common struggle to heal the painful parts of love and to understand this crazy world we live in, and he rests comfortably there in a place we’ve all been before. The mushy moments last night were broken up nicely by between-song banter wherein he interacted with the audience with wit and ease. You see folks, he’s British. Lines like “Thank you very much indeed” and “A fine evening to you!” are sure to please any audience on this side of the Atlantic, even if all present can’t immediately pinpoint the root of such charm. Take this bit I overheard from the teenyboppers next to me when David invited a pal on stage and referred to him as “My dear friend and countryman.”
“Countryman? What does that mean?”
“They’re both British”
For more fun with looping, read of the vocal constrictions of Petra Haden