With the one-minute bare bones’ acoustic guitar and vocal opener, “If I’d Waited” which sounds nothing like any other track, Holy Ghost, is a successful work of misdirection. Based on both his history and his abilities you would expect former Black Crowes’ guitarist Marc Ford’s latest solo effort to be blistering leads over layers of Telecaster and Les Paul guitar tracks. Instead Ghost is a delightfully listenable collection of deep musical ditties.
The pop tinged acoustic “Blue Sky” immediately has the listener head bopping with the lead guitar melody line and vocal harmonies resolving in the sing along chorus: think early Beatles pop songs countrified. “Dream #26” has a deep, mid tempo groove foundation over which Ford decorates guitar fills and wandering pedal steel. The tunes’ lyrics capture the vibe, “Dream dream I had a dream/people are doing their thing/easy like Sunday the Reverend Al Green/We’re all hanging on a guitar string.” Ford’s guitar abilities are present throughout Holy Ghost but not front and center, as the album features numerous vignettes both acoustic and electric as opposed to any single over the top solos.
Holy Ghost is largely comprised of acoustic ballads, however, Ford uses instrumentation to keep the sound interesting. On“In You” the piano stands out, “Dancing Shoes” uses the banjo to supplement the sound, and in the delicate “Just A Girl” the pedal steel dominates. All of the music benefits from well placed harmonies. Although produced by Robot Club (Phantom Limb’s Stew Jackson), Ford is a successful producer in his own right; his credits include Ryan Bingham’s first two albums. On Holy Ghost a wide range of instruments and vocals are used in complex arrangements; a credit to Ford’s experience on both sides of the engineering board.
Known more for his guitar playing then vocals Ford’s baritone succeeds by never trying to exceed his ability. “Turquoise Blue” has his tone sounding like Neil Diamond and further few bars go by where his son Elijah and wife, Kirsten’s backing vocals aren’t wrapping in spot on harmonies. “I’m Free” and “Sometimes” are about as heavy as it gets here, but they sound more like The Band then “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.”
Ford was with the Crowe’s not just at the height of their musical ability but also at the peak of their rock and roll debauchery. Holy Ghost is not so much a retrospective but rather a introspective look at where Ford is today. Musically speaking Ford is in a great space.