Amidst the renditions of 'Ding-Dong, the Witch is Dead' making progress in the mainstream singles chart this last week, the iTunes chart was quietly showcasing the talents of some of the best, yet under-rated performers in Britain. Among them was Sussex-based musician David Ford, whose album 'Charge' was at No. 3 in the singer-writer category. It's an impressive position, and yet he remains a virtual unknown, even within his own genre - a testament to how often the music industry leaves the best talents on the periphery.
'Charge' is Ford's fourth solo offering since leaving the indie-rock outfit Easyworld in 2004. Coming in the wake of a series of EPs that have attacked politicians, the credit crunch, religious fanaticism and corporate greed, it is a gloriously eclectic blend of blues, soul, piano ballads and angry folk-rock. Opening track 'Pour a Little Poison' is upbeat and direct, featuring some dirty harmonica work over Ford's self-mocking verses, claiming he's just "a whiny little English boy singing the blues." 'The Ballad of Miss Lily' is a jangle of snaking guitar riffs and bongo drums over a lyrical morality tale warning gullible men against femme fatales.
Besides the smart lyrics and multiple layers of instrumentation, there are some wonderfully tender moments. 'Moving On' is a gorgeous paen to defeat and rejection, while in a similar vein the achingly sad 'Isn't it Strange?' simply and powerfully voices the slow death of a relationship. 'Philadelphia Boy' is a tribute to Ford's favourite city that manages to avoid being cloying, serving as an unashamedly refreshing tribute to the generosity in much of American culture, while 'Throwaway' is a movingly sympathetic song about a singleton surviving in a world where everyone else seems to have found their match. 'What's Not to Love' should be up there in the pantheon of great love songs, a slow-burning piano ballad that morphs into a heartfelt, string-laden devotional.
Perhaps it's best that Ford is not in the mainstream chart, as it's maybe the ultimate insult to be ousted by Thatcher, even if it's via a protest song. But that's where the final album track excels - 'Every Time' is a howl of defiant anguish at a music industry that prioritises the One Directions of this world over music with genuine substance. Ford's lyrics mix poetry and brevity, managing to be angry, articulate and sassy while sparing the listener any pomposity or posturing. You really believe it when in a voice that sounds like Springsteen if he'd been raised in the Home Counties Ford screams "I choose this motherf**cker and I choose it again!" - proof that not everyone sees appearing on X-Factor as the pinnacle of achievement. The music industry should re-think how it defines talent. Until then, there's David Ford.
'Charge' is out now on iTunes and Amazon.