By Brian F. Johnson
“Utilizable, they are still just love songs,” said guitarist Marc Ford, during a recent interview with The Marquee, about the tracks on his new solo album Holy Ghost.
In the five years since his daughter Eva was born, the former Black Crowes guitarist moved with his family to San Clemente, Calif. and slowed his pace of life, considerably. “I found myself at home a lot with an acoustic guitar,” he said.
The man who played guitar on Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, Amorica and Three Snakes and One Charm, among others — the same man, who was once famously dismissed from the Crowes because of his struggle with drugs, and later, after a reunion with the band, dismissed himself because he said it was difficult to maintain his hard fought sobriety in proximity to the group — isn’t playing stadiums anymore. In fact, if one was so inclined, early on some Sunday mornings over the past several years, Ford could be found playing some of the most intimate “shows” of his life with the Vineyard Community Church band in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
In some ways, Ford has taken the famous blues story of going down to the crossroads and turned it around entirely. Instead of a guitarist making a deal with the devil, Ford has made a deal with the man upstairs. “That whole crossroads thing was someone going to trade [their soul]for something, and I think I had it. I didn’t need to get it. It was a gifting. That was always what I was supposed to do and I think for a long time I just took it in the direction I wanted it to go in, and that got me in a lot of trouble, because it was a selfish ambition. You know, it was about me, and it was about what I could get, and it was about my lack of identity because of being fatherless and it was just a long trip to find a father, really. And after crashing and burning over and over again you tend to… well, there’s a lot of reflection in rehab, and I had an incredible experience one night in the hospital where He was standing at the foot of my bed and He goes, ‘You done?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And He said, ‘Alright it’s time.’ The peace that I once had came back and there were crazy psychedelic lights in the room, and I just got it.”
Several years down the road now, Ford’s latest release Holy Ghost still sounds just like a Marc Ford record. Like 2007’s Weary and Wired and his stunning solo debut 2003’s It’s About Time, Holy Ghost showcases Ford’s dichotomy of acoustic songwriting mastery and lead guitar expertise. While the songs are, as Ford said, “love songs,” those that know his spiritual outlook, could easily interpret many of the lyrics as having religious undertones. Lyrics such as “Like a guiding light on a midnight sea, your love comes shining down on me,” from the song “Blue Sky,” or the chorus from the song “In You,” “All I ever wanted was in you/You’ve captured my attention/You got me acting like a clown/Desired my affection/you have turned my world around/I realize there’s nothing I can do/All I ever wanted was in you,” seem obvious in a religious context, but — and this is where the beauty of his songwriting comes in — could just as easily be lyrics about Ford’s wife.
“If the album wasn’t called Holy Ghost, I don’t think anyone would get it,” said Ford. “It’s very ambiguous. You know some people are evangelists and some people are preachers, and some people just write songs. I’m not out to convert anyone, or change their mind. I’m just doing what I was told to do.”
Ford recorded the album in Wales and in Bath, a city in South West England, with the English country/soul band Phantom Limb, whose 2012 album, The Pines, was produced by Ford. And, Ford’s son Elijah, who has his own band Elijah Ford & The Bloom (which will open the Denver show), also plays on the album, while Ford’s wife Kirsten provides vocal work. “We didn’t get to spend a lot of time together when he was a kid, because I was on tour all the time. But on this record he was around when I was writing these songs and he was like my biggest champion. We jumped on a plane together to go record this and he was involved from the second we started. We sat face-to-face with acoustic guitars and the band all around us and tracked all of the songs together,” Ford said, beaming with pride.
Despite the changes Ford has been through personally and professionally over the years, the guitarist is still crafting the same style of music that he always has in his solo career. And these days he said the guy behind the guitar is one whose character he’s more proud of. “It’s the same music,” said Ford. “It’s the same guy, just a better version, and this version won’t steal your stash.”
| Marc Ford |
| Walnut Room | September 9 |
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