Michael Ford, Jr. & The Apache Relay
September 2009; Independent
By Emily J Ramey
Sometimes it’s difficult to begin listening to a new artist, especially if that artist is new on the scene as opposed to just new to you, and sometimes side projects are tossed away without a second glance because they are chalked up to the artist’s restlessness or desire to “experiment;” however Michael Ford, Jr. and The Apache Relay are breaking down those stereotypes right and left. Michael Ford, Jr. is originally of Nashville’s The Hollywood Ten, an indie grunge rock band he fronts with his brother, which is partly why I was so pleasantly surprised to hear that this new endeavor involved such a unique strain. I love when artists can successfully pull off playing entirely different genres of music, and Michael Ford, Jr. is a brilliant young example.
Michael Ford, Jr. and The Apache Relay sound like Damien Rice on vocals with Nickel Creek as backing band. Ford possesses the same raw, unaffected quality Damien Rice is so famous for. His voice, slightly ragged, occasionally quivering with feeling, exudes a relaxed, laid-back tone that is immediately likable and so fitting for the bluegrass folk he’s singing. The Apache Relay, made up of Michael Harris, Brett Moore, and Kellen Wenrich, magnificently blend their strings into music that is subtly dynamic and beautifully balanced. The delicate tinkling notes of the mandolin, the invigorating whine of the fiddle, the low hum of upright bass, with piano and acoustic guitar filling out most of the tracks, fuse together to create graceful, lively harmonies so commonly respected among bluegrass musicians but too infrequently heard in mainstream music circles. 1988 is a bold step from Michael Ford, Jr. and The Apache Relay, and as a debut album, it introduces an inspired new talent to the music scene with vigorous enthusiasm and dazzling potential.
Of the ten tracks on 1988, “Sugarcane” with its upbeat, catchy chorus, “Let’s Start Over,” a melancholy ballad complete with sorrowful violin and bluesy bass undertones, “Blue Eyes,” easily the most memorable track on the album with buzzing fiddle, jazzy guitar, and dirty country lyrics, and “Magnolia Street Heartbreaker,” a solidly melodic tune to close out the album, stand out as focus tracks.
1988 is a fabulous beginning. Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, the album ends before I’d like it to, but it’s just enough music to hook me into anticipating more. Michael Ford, Jr. and The Apache Relay are approaching the music scene with a radiantly refreshing perspective, and I can’t wait to see where they’ll go with it.