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Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on September 1st, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 26 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 16, Issue 26

JJ Ford presents new album, 'Perfect Saturday Night,' with distinct country rock sound

By JOE PAYNE

Local singer songwriter JJ Ford released his first album Performance Jones, making a strong statement in the folk rock realm, dabbling with a multifaceted palette of American influences. But his latest album—set to release on Sept. 12—is different.

The new collection of nine of Ford’s originals, and one cover, is titled Perfect Saturday Night, and it lays heavy on the country flavor. It’s a style that Ford says hails back to the Bakersfield sound, which stems from artists like Buck Owens, that came to typify country music coming from California.


COUNTRY THAT ROCKS
JJ Ford will perform songs off his new album Perfect Saturday Night on Sept. 12 at the Santa Maria Fairpark, the same day the album is released.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JJ FORD

“It’s about bringing in all these different instruments, getting the interplay going, and I just think it’s so interesting,” Ford said. “It was the rise of West Coast country versus the Nashville country that’s always dominated, and out here it had more of a rock-timing beat.”

Ford invited a bevy of incredibly talented musicians to join in on the album, some local and others not so, to offer support to his singing and rhythm guitar. Drummers Tracy Morgan and TK Mack shared the songs on the album, while Jerome White played electric bass on the whole album. Vocalist Michele Kubacki sang a duet on the heartfelt acoustic ballad “Love is Not a Word” and others.

Thomas Gingell of Moon Productions and Recording Studio in Arroyo Grande produced the album, recording Ford’s and the local musicians’ parts.  Tyson Leonard produced a few tracks as well, also offing backing vocals and violin on a few others. Musicians from outside the Central Coast were important to the album as well, Ford explained, even though they were far off.

“What really defined this album is that technology has taken over. This album was recorded probably in five studios throughout the West, and I didn’t go to any of them except two locally,” he said. “You send the files, they send them back, you can do a live hookup with the video and even talk to them or listen while they are recording live in a different studio. I think it really raises the threshold for new songwriters and recording artists that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”

The album includes guest musicians with true clout, like violinist Bobby Furgo, who fiddles ecstasy into several of Ford’s tracks, with his nimble, tuneful playing. Furgo has performed with the likes of Leonard Cohen, Eric Burdon, Nancy Sinatra, and others. Grammy-winning producer George Nauful also provides a fantastic acoustic guitar part to “Love is Not a Word,” contributing greatly to the track’s acoustic sonority.

Supremely skilled local pedal steel guitarist Michael Hopkins contributed a great deal to the character of Perfect Saturday Night. He plays lead guitar on several tracks, but it’s his pedal steel that enshrines the Bakersfield sound. If Ford’s new album was a classic Ford car, Hopkins’ pedal steel is the shiny chrome that glitters as it cruises down the street. Hopkins has performed with local greats like Louie Ortega, Terry Lawless, Jill Knight, and Monte Mills.

Hear JJ live
JJ Ford performs at the California Women for Agriculture benefit event at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Sept. 12. He performs at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez on Nov. 6 from 8 to 11 p.m. He also plays a Surfing for Hope benefit event on Nov. 7 at the Pismo Beach Pier.

Bringing all these musicians together definitely brings a lush sound to the album that crackles and sparks with a country rock flavor. Ford’s songwriting is relaxed and assured, but has plenty of get-up-and-go, which provides a perfect scaffolding over which each musician weaves a lattice of harmony. 

It actually wasn’t that difficult a task, Ford explained, since each musician was professional and fantastically skilled. 

“I let them know, ‘I am not going to tell you what to play. My daytime job here is I am an architect and a designer, and I coordinate different skilled people for different purposes, and I think the best way to get the best out of anyone, is let them do what they do best,’” he said. “I say that the song is a blank palette for you to paint on, do your best, and I feel that that has brought out so much in each one of these people.”

Ford has several upcoming performances scheduled, including a benefit concert for the California Women for Agriculture (CWA) at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Sept. 12, the same day his new album is released. Copies of Perfect Saturday Night will be available for purchase at the event, but the money paid for each album all goes toward CWA, he explained.

“They have a really good cause I think, equipping folks who grow our food, and we need that,” he said. “All of the proceeds will go towards the cause, and that’s a kind of a twist on a CD release.”

Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at jpayne@santamariasun.com.




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