Jan 22, 2012

Shoestring Review: Kristen Ford Band's "The Grindstone"



Last week I blogged about singer-songwriter Kirsten Opstad's brilliant January 14 appearance at Club Passim in Cambridge, MA, and in that post, I promised to give readers a closer look at Opstad's phenomenal opening act: Kristen Ford, Kara Kulpa and Kirsten Lamb of the Kristen Ford Band. Indeed, the entire Kristen Ford Band is the subject of this post as I give you my two cents on their new CD The Grindstone. 

Kristen Ford Band: (Top row, L-R) Kristen Ford - Guitar and vocals, writer/producer; Ariel Bernstien - Drums and vocals; Kirsten Lamb - Upright Bass and vocals. (Bottom row, L-R) Kara Kulpa - Violin and vocals; Curtis Killian - Lead guitar and vocals. (all photos reproduced here courtesy of Kristen Ford)

Lead singer Kristen Ford's iron-strong voice & guitar playing both fuse with and diverge from the band's complex, multi-layered instrumentals in ways that both conform to and thwart one's notions of rock. Kara Kulpa's violin and Kirsten Lamb's upright bass, two sounds most associated with country and jazz respectively, dovetail beautifully with Ford, Ariel Bernstien's drumming and Curtis Killian's guitar. As a result, The Grindstone is solid from track 1 through 11 and boasts a playlist that revs you up, keeps you there, and gently brings you down at all the right moments. The effect is seamless and steady yet with enough acoustic surprises that never bores and it holds up to repeated playing.

Kristen Ford
It has been said by more than one reviewer that the Kristen Ford Band is hard to categorize, so deftly does it draw upon an array of musical genres. This eclecticism is never more evident than on The Grindstone: the songs "Loved You Madly" and "Warning Sign" boast funky reggae beats;  "Bag of Bones" starts off on a ramble through the cool blue grass then flows into a delicious mixture of alternative rock and folk. But just to be clear, their music never feels derivative --no patchwork copycats they. Sure, Ford's hard-rocking delivery on "Machine Bird" is on a par with the aching rage of American R&R legends Bruce Springsteen and Joan Jett, and the sweet and subtle instrumentals on "Shadow" pleasantly evoke Cat Stevens' "Lady D'Arbanville" and "The Lillywhite" but the Kristen Ford Band is a group who achieves a sound all their own. And running through it is the unbreakable thread of Ford's at turns heartbreaking and exuberant lead vocals. She is also an accomplished lyricist who puts forth words that can make you laugh, want to dance--and sometimes they wound and stab you in that sweet way only songs that speak the truth of love, loss and the search for meaning in life can.

In summation, Kristen Ford and Kristen Ford Band know music and how to utilize the best of the best musical traditions. They know what they're doing and do it damn well. So if you've overlooked the links in the first paragraph, here they are again bold and clear: buy the CD Grindstone, go see the band...NOW.



Additional credits, the following guest musicians also contributed to the phenomenal CD The Grindstone: Keith Hollis - Piano; Noah Maltsberger - Lead guitar; Hugh McGowan - Lead guitar; Valerie Thompson - Cello. Production team: Tom Bianchi - 24 Hour Studios in Somerville MA; Keith Hollis - Drop Site Studios in Somerville MA; Lee Madeloni - Long Distance Studios in Los Angeles CA; Roger Seibel - SAE Mastering in Phoenix AZ; Alex Salvi - Album Artwork; Alison Swiatocha - Photography and Design; Samantha Milowsky, Linq, Ally Burnett, Erin Gross, Rachel Kent, Unkl Stoo in Alabama, Laura Fox, Tucker Lewis, Davida Rochman, Mac Evans, Sooz, Shane Runquist, Samantha Edelheit, Mom, Dad and Dianne - Executive producers. 

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