Sallie Ford: Slap Back

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

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Sallie Ford
Slap Back
(Vanguard)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

After three albums and an EP, it seemed that the Portland, Oregon-based Sallie Ford and her Sound Outside band were making headway with their retro leaning garage/rockabilly. The band’s 2013 Untamed Beast was the best received of their 3 albums and one EP, and generated plenty of positive reviews. But Ford felt artistically boxed in. So, last winter she disbanded the act and formed a different, unnamed all girl outfit. Along with the fresh musician blood, label affiliation and philosophical lease on life comes a new sound.

Instead of reaching back to the 50s and 60s for inspiration, Ford shifts her sights to the garage punk sound of the late 70s/early 80s. Add some surf and attitude to the mix and the result should be a creative explosion of tough playing with sass and swagger. While that’s occasionally in evidence, this set falls flat.

Ford hasn’t taken the time to write a dozen memorable songs. Her female band of cool/cheesy keyboards, drums and bass seems too hesitant by half and never really rocks out, at least to the extent these songs call for. Ford’s guitar playing is tentative at best, her unpolished vocals aren’t particularly distinctive even if they do work with the murky music, and her simplistic lyrics (“you gotta take a chance/ gotta be a fool to dance”) make the Ramones seem like Tom Waits.

There are flashes of inspiration scattered throughout, in particular on the new wave inspired “An Ending” and the thumping, roller coaster rocking of “Dive In” but they are few and far between. It seems like Ford was in such a hurry to introduce her rejiggered approach that she didn’t take the requisite effort to woodshed and knock it out of the park on the group’s debut.

There is surely enough talent here to hint at a brighter future and you have to respect anyone who makes a sudden mid-career change to follow the sound in their head. But this disappointing release feels undercooked and oddly uninspired. It gets Sallie Ford’s revitalized style off to a shaky start.

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