David Ford's records to date have been ambitious in the sheer variety of instrumentation and pace of song and mood running through them. Whilst unique and absolutely captivating, the one criticism that could be levelled at them was the steer extent of his experimentation meant that sometimes they felt a little fragmented in parts, great songs but not necessarily an album.
The Arrangement does something he hasn't done before and places a concept on the songs on the record. Whilst there have been string arrangements on many of his songs, this time he's decided to base the songs around strings (and his November / December tour) and as a result the songs, still brilliantly challenging and obtuse in their own right, fit together as an album.
Fireworks and One Of The Days hoist the petard for the gorgeous balladry a la Song For The Road that show off the more romantic side of David's work. The former is a declaration of love "how come all these years on and all the magic ain't gone darling, I still get these fireworks for you" and, set to strings, it goes back to themes of travelling and being away from loved ones. One Of These Days is lyrically the antithesis of Fireworks, questioning the future of a relationship and picking at the bones of the wreckage - "one of these days maybe I'll find a way to mend these broken pieces of what we've become" whilst the strings add to the intensity of the emotions that run through the song. It features vocals from New Yorker Emily Grove who toured with him last year.
Morning Is Broken is a dark brooding string-laden lament to lost love, a man with a history of cheating on a woman suddenly realising that he's gone too far and looking back at the relationship - "this time round when I broke your heart, darling, I broke my own heart too". Opener This Will All Count For Nothing is also in that contemplative maudlin mood, reflecting on life and the inevitability of death - "the money's gone, I spent it on the things that people said I need"
Despite the strings theme you'd be mistaken for thinking The Arrangement is a series of epic orchestral works. Devil Come To Town is a folky Americana stomp that the strings add drama to, but are almost overshadowed by multi-tracked backing vocals. The Snake is a string-led cover of Al Wilson's 1968 soul cover with all sorts of string plucking and slapping creating the drama that provides the framework for Ford's vocals which take on the role of the female and the snake of the story, where a woman takes in a snake she finds in the street which ultimately turns on and administers a fatal bite.
Final track O'Sullivan's Jukebox is classic Ford, starting "I've been around the block I can tell you" preceding a story of the lead character, this time not auto-biographical, looking back and reminiscing on their life, of what was lost, what could have been, but ultimately coming to the conclusion that although that life has dealt many blows, they are happy with their lot - "I put most of my money in O'Sullivan's Jukebox and the rest went behind the bar".
Whether this is an EP or a mini-album or whatever, it's the most thematically and musically consistent release of Ford's career so far without compromising the diversity and intelligence that makes his music so unique amongst the plethora of male solo artists these days. The string arrangements serve to make the songs less complex musically than Ford's songs are traditionally and create more space for his voice and the stories he's telling to take centre stage.
The Arrangement is out now on digital download and can be pre-ordered on CD from his website or will be available on his upcoming UK tour.
David Ford’s website can be found here. He is also on Twitter and Facebook. He is on tour in November and December with a string section for some special shows at
November 28 - London Union Chapel
November 29 - Norwich Epic Studios
December 4 - Glasgow Oran Mor
December 5 - Gateshead Sage
December 6 - Manchester Gorilla
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