Notes From Colt Ford’s Album Release Party

Pierce Greenberg | April 21st, 2010

colt-ford-run-dmc

Country music has long been about establishing (and often fabricating) authenticity. Regardless of a singer’s actual background, upbringing, and lifestyle, there’s always been a sense of having to prove one’s country cred. As of late, this trend has led to a slew of backwoods-boasting singles that feature tired stereotypes and worn-out characters.

That being said, I still managed to walk into Colt Ford’s CD release party at 12th and Porter in Nashville with an open mind. The country-rapper exploded onto the independent scene and sold more than 150,000 copies of his debut album, Ride Through the Country, in 2008. So, he must be doing something right…right?

Ford’s record label, Average Joe’s, was set up in the lobby with an ice sculpture along with some Zaxby’s chicken—fitting. Ford sat propped on a couch as he posed for pictures and cordially greeted fans and friends. A self-proclaimed “fat guy,” Ford certainly doesn’t look the part of Nashville success story—and in a way, that’s very refreshing.

Ford took to the stage—as he normally does—with a full country band including prominent fiddle and steel guitar. (That’s more than most mainstream acts can say.) Then, the music begins. It’s a loud mix of bass beats and percussion on top of screeching guitar, fiddle, and steel (with the occasional tractor sound-effect). He covers “Devil Went Down To Georgia” and the spitfire lyrics fit his style. The sound is mostly thumping and reeks of testosterone.

Not surprisingly, the crowd is predominantly male. Perhaps that’s his appeal. In a country music landscape full of sappy love songs and handsome hunks, Ford relates to men—men who drive pick-ups (or wish they did), enjoy a cold beverage, and have no problem comparing their love of a woman to their love of fried poultry.

Therein lays the problem with Ford’s music: the severe lack of substance. Stark truths and story-telling (staples of country music songwriting) are completely absent from his show. The schitck is obvious: Ford is simply repackaging the worst elements of mainstream country “authenticity”—and for him, it’s working. “Tool-Timer” was a welcome departure with slightly more thought put into it, but moments like that were few and far between.

Label-mate Josh Gracin and DMC (of Run/DMC fame) made appearances at the party. Gracin lent his vocals on “All About Y’all” and DMC joined Ford on “Ride On, Ride Out” and a crowd-pleasing version of “Walk This Way.” The arms were waving and fists were pumping (and bumping) as Ford exited after “Biscuits.”

Ford is a polarizing figure. There are disappointing elements like the bored lyrics, uncomfortable on-stage gyrations, and the rap/country meshing. But at the same time, he pays homage to country music tradition, entertains, and seems like a guy who has always stuck to his guns.

There are reasons to admire and reasons to despise—but he’s found an audience for his style. Authentic, genuine, or not—Ford’s stock is rising and Nashville is taking notice.

  1. Noeller
    April 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

    As cool as it is that this guy is just doing what he loves, and his “look” be damned, I just can’t get past the fact that he has ZERO talent. None. The “writing”, as it is, is not very good. He has a terrible voice, even for a rapper, and as has been noted on this board several times, “the worst part of every Colt Ford track is Colt Ford.” It’s unfortunate, ’cause you could really get behind a guy like this.

    Ride Through The Country was an alright track, because of John Michael Montgomery, and in spite of Colt Ford.

  2. Stormy
    April 21, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I don’t really care if I am supposed to admire someone or not–I care if I want to listen to their music.

  3. Paul
    April 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I interviewed Colt last week. He is a great guy who deserves all the good things coming his way, and is more country in his outlooks, personality and music than half the folks in Nashville. Way to go Colt.

  4. WAYNOE
    April 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Typical double-speak. Though many statements made in this review are spot-on, how can you write this and then turn around and say, “Therein lays the problem with Ford’s music: the severe lack of substance.”?

    Just because the lyrics do not match your preference, again he is singing to the audience that supports him. Don’t misunderstand, I am not a part of his audience. But again, if they fit the people he considers his fan base, then your critique of his substance, or lack thereof, is meaningless.

    If his fan base likes bear, butts, and bravado, then so be it. This ain’t New York!

  5. Paul
    April 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Good points Waynoe. In fact, Colt is talented, and his music does not have a “severe lack of substance.”

  6. Joe
    April 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    The writer of this article will never get Colt. He is from a suburban neighborhood an knows nothing about real country living. This is typical of Nashville, they don’t get it. We know about four wheel drive trucks, guns, and God, we’ll keep clinging to them. What do you know?

    Nothing!

  7. Chris N.
    April 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    “This is typical of Nashville, they don’t get it. We know about four wheel drive trucks, guns, and God, we’ll keep clinging to them.”

    Which, I suppose, is why Nashville relentlessly churns out songs about four-wheel drive trucks, guns and God.

  8. Michelle
    April 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Noeller, seems to be under the impression that, because a male singer isn’t attractive, he’ll never make it. I disagree with that, because most male singers I like wasn’t attractive to me at first glance. I have to like their music first and then they become attractive to me. I can’t count the times I’ve been asked, “If he was walking down the street would you take a second look?” And nine times out of ten the answer is, no.” But, if I saw Dwight walking down the road, my only thought would be, “Man, that guys wearing some tight *** jeans.” I fall in love with the music first, and then the singer. Maybe, I’m one in a million, but I seriously doubt that! I can only think of two male country singers that I thought was attractive the first time I saw them. Maybe, that opinion is a guy thing, since guys are known to be “visual” creatures. I think most of us are “visual” when we’re young, but most of us females grow out of that. What I mean by visual is, if it doesn’t look good, it aint good. A/K/A shallow!

  9. Pierce
    April 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Here’s the thing that’s lost on a lot of people: There’s a lot of ways to say “I’m Country” without saying “I’m Country” or whipping out a laundry list of traits.

    There are plenty examples of country music (even music that’s been made in the past couple years! *gasp*) that include references to Southern living that I like just fine. How about “The Dashboard” by Chris Young? Good song about a truck. Well-written, pretty cool storyline, nice instrumentation, etc. I have no problem with that. I certainly have no problem with God. “Believe” by Brooks & Dunn is one of my favorites.

    If Colt’s stuff is the kinda stuff that floats your boat, then fine. I have no problem with that. But, in my opinion, there are better, more artistic, and more thoughtful ways to express the sentiments of Southern/rural life and culture.

    Waynoe: You caught me! :-) Reviews are subjective and should be read as such. In my opinion, there isn’t substance in his songs… someone may disagree with me and thats fine. I’m not the king of the world, and I realize that. I thought I went pretty easy on ole Colt.

  10. Michelle
    April 21, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I wasn’t referring to Noellers comment about Colt Ford, but he did mention “looks” again. I read his comment about ZBB, too. Just wanted to make that clear. I’m not into Colt Fords music, though. And not because of his looks either.

  11. Noeller
    April 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    @Michelle – I’m not sure exactly what you’re saying, but I want to clarify my point a bit. One of my biggest pet peeves is that the most successful people in Country music, as with a lot of things, have to be good looking. I am a HUGE fan of ZBB, and I fully believe the reason they aren’t as popular as Lady A, is because they don’t have that Backstreet Boys look. Zac’s an overweight guy with a crazy-shag beard and a toque. The average country music fan is probably a little weirded out by it, because they don’t base their judgement on the music. Does that make any sense?? There’s too many fans who make their judgement based on the look, and not the music, and that, to me, is why Lady A is more successful than ZBB. It’s pretty much the ONLY reason Rascal Flatts was popular.

    Same goes for Jamey Johnson. Crazy lookin’ dude, with the beard and all, right? Music is KILLER, but the “typical” fan these days can’t get past the look. Drives me bananas because the music is SO good and people need to hear it.

    As for Colt, the whole thing is just bad. I mean, what part of what he’s doing is good?? The guest vocals are always really well done, but his “rapping” isn’t very good (verging on Cowboy Troy levels) and the writing isn’t much better. I wanna like the guy BECAUSE he isn’t the typical garbage being force fed to audiences, but I can’t ’cause it’s just bad.

    Clear as mud?? :)

  12. Michelle
    April 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    You don’t have to explain yourself. I knew exactly what you meant, but like I said, “I disagree.” I don’t know, but I thought I made myself fairly clear. Maybe, ZBB isn’t as popular, as Lady A, because they aren’t pop enough. I’ve never heard ZBB on a pop station, but I could be wrong. I somehow doubt it’s, because he’s toting a beard or overweight. Hillary isn’t thin either. Jamey Johnson isn’t popular, probably, because he doesn’t want to conform. And that’s fine,too, but that’s kind of how it goes when you choose not to. You can’t place all the blame on the listener.

  13. Stormy
    April 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Hillary is about as thin as she can get and still be healthy.

  14. Michelle
    April 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I didn’t say, “she’s obese,” but she isn’t thin. And she doesn’t have to be either. I’m just saying, “you don’t have to be picture perfect or stick thin to make it big in the music industry.”

  15. Stormy
    April 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Except that she is thin.

  16. Matt Bjorke
    April 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    the ZBB have as successful a first album sales wise as Lady Antebellum. To say they’re not successful is funny. Their second album will likely blow up the way Lady A’s did. ZBB are also working on a 5th #1 single? How is that not successful. They don’t want pop crossover success either.

  17. Rick
    April 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I’m glad the discussion has turned away from Colt Ford to a Lady Antebellum vs. Zach Brown Band comparison! At least that’s worth reading about.

    Hillary Scott has a very pretty face but is stuck with a body shape I describe as “stumpy”. Hillary is not carrying around excess poundage for her bone structure on her central “trunk”. Her recent flashy ACM Awards Show red carpet dress directed attention to her chest and face and away from the stumpiness that lay below. Zach Brown is a chubbo, but as a top chef I assume he enjoys eating what he cooks…

  18. Michelle
    April 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Matt, my argument with Noeller is on “looks” and that’s really about it. I said nothing about success. I know ZBB doesn’t want to cross over and I’m glad. I do think it helps as far as popularity goes. And that makes it tougher for the ones who don’t cross over. I think it’s unfair, but what can ya do?

  19. Michelle
    April 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Rick, you’re a total riot!LOL! I’ve seen Zach cooking and it looked good.

  20. K
    April 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    ” There’s too many fans who make their judgement based on the look, and not the music, and that, to me, is why Lady A is more successful than ZBB. It’s pretty much the ONLY reason Rascal Flatts was popular.”

    Are you serious? Gary isn’t a thin guy. He was decent looking when they started out, but they certaintly aren’t getting by on their looks now.

    They are popular because they have created some excellent music in the past (some of their earlier material was better than anything Antellbellum has done thus far, in my opinion. )

    Sure, their music has taken a slight hit in the past few years, but I would never believe the only reason they are popular only because of their looks. If that was true, any record excutive could’ve singned any group of guys, probably much better looking than them.

    The pattern seems to be that the guys can fall between average looking or kind of ugly (Jason Aldean, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw), whie the women have to be drop-dead grogeous. When’s the last time you saw a successful unattractive woman in country music? Miranda, Carrie, Hillary, Martina, Reba, Jenifer, Kellie, and many others HAVE to be gorgeous, not average, all the time, unlike the guys.

    Alan Jackson, Rascal Flatts, Zach Brown, Toby Keith, Jason Aldean, and many other country men can get away with looking like absolute slobs at award shows, on TV, and at concerts. If a woman showed up like that, she would be heckled to no end.

  21. Janelle
    April 21, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Saw Colt Ford open for Jamey Johnson on NYE…wasn’t that impressed with his set…I don’t dig the whole country rap bit…but watch for his band member Tyler Farr – he did a set before the show that was really great!

  22. Razor X
    April 21, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    They are popular because they have created some excellent music in the past

    When was that?

  23. Razor X
    April 21, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    When’s the last time you saw a successful unattractive woman in country music?

    Jo Dee Messina is no oil painting.

  24. K
    April 21, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    “They are popular because they have created some excellent music in the past
    When was that?”

    I understand that’s a largely subjective opinion, and I wouldn’t expect you to agree with that statement, Razor. You don’t seem to care for any mainstream country music, which is fine.

    RF had some great earlier material, I think. Among those songs were some singles and some album cuts:
    “These Days”
    “My Worst Fear”
    “What Hurts The Most”
    “My Wish”
    “He Ain’t The Leavin Kind”
    “Bless The Broken Road”
    “Skin”
    “Why”
    “Like I Am”
    “Mayberry”
    and lots of others…Again, just my opinion (:

    “JODee Messina is no oil painting”

    Considering her peak of success was in the 90’s, and the fact that she had no successful music in the mainstream market, would you really count her among “current successful female artists?” I certaintly wouldn’t.

  25. kevinjy
    April 21, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Good th RF had Jeffrey Steele writing ;-)

  26. Steve Harvey
    April 22, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Hillary Scott is gorgeous and definitely not overweight.

    On the other hand, Gary Le Vox is a pudgy, pudgy man.

  27. Jessica
    April 22, 2010 at 12:05 am

    I saw Colt perform as a middle act between two artists I really enjoyed seeing. He should have been opener, actually I take that back. He shouldn’t have even been on the bill. I lost total respect for him how he was dirty dancing with the females in the group and he is a father and husband. All he did was screamed lyrics. It is bad that Tyler Farr who sings backup sings much better than him. He had to get all of those other artists to come on his album for it to even sell. People are willing to be duped into buying something if they know an artist they like is singing along with someone else on an album. What you hear on the album is no where near the screaming and rapping in his shows. It’s Cowboy Troy Volume 2.

    He may be a nice guy, but I’ve never met him before. The hokey pokey act won’t be taken seriously, just like other bands such as Trailer Choir and Lowcash Cowboys.

  28. Noeller
    April 22, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Man oh man – lemme first say, that I’m writing this at 11:50pm MST, and I’ve had a lot of good Canadian whisky tonight following some very terrible outcomes in the world of hockey.

    NOW, having said that – this thread has made me LOL a lot this evening as I pore over the posts.

    Michelle – I think I get what you’re saying now, and we can agree to disagree. I personally don’t think that an unattractive act will ever be as popular as an attractive act, because the fans aren’t smart enough to make the music their central point of reference.

    -Maybe I missed something, but as big a ZBB fan as I am, I don’t know how they’re even in the same popularity ballpark as Lady A, but again, that could be a Canada vs. USA thing again. Up here, Lady A pretty much reigns supreme over everyone in Country music.

    -LOVE LOVE LOVE the “Rascal Flatts only has good music when Jeff Steele is writing” comment. Brilliams!! I still think “These Days” is the best single they’ve ever had, and the last really good song they released. Didn’t hate “Love You Out Loud” or “Mayberry” or even their cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is A Highway”, but without Jeff Steele handing them gold on a silver platter, they’re f-ed. Those guys were riding the popularity of Joe Don’s ass for FAR too long.

    Awesome thread – love where we’ve headed with this one. The real beauty of 9513 as a site, is the snarky humour of the posters. If it weren’t for the ability to make fun of certain acts, I wouldn’t show up hear near as much. Keep up the great work gang!!

    :) :) :)

  29. Noeller
    April 22, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Sorry – “Hear” should be “Here” at the end of this post. Again – you have no idea how strong our booze is north of the border!! ;)

  30. K
    April 22, 2010 at 2:33 am

    “-LOVE LOVE LOVE the “Rascal Flatts only has good music when Jeff Steele is writing” comment. Brilliams!! I still think “These Days” is the best single they’ve ever had, and the last really good song they released. Didn’t hate “Love You Out Loud” or “Mayberry” or even their cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is A Highway”, but without Jeff Steele handing them gold on a silver platter, they’re f-ed. Those guys were riding the popularity of Joe Don’s ass for FAR too long.”

    Not surprisingly, I disagree with that comment. All the singles from their first album were top five singles, and “I’m Movin On” won them a song of the year award, too. Not to mention they’d had two TV specials and two #1 songs at that point.

    They were on some pretty well-known tours when they were just starting out- they were definatly gaining an audience then.

    Looking back, I don’t think the “I Melt” controversy boosted their career that much. Sure, it got them a few weeks of publicity, but it more than likely just disgusted even more country fans (along with those who already disliked their sound).

    The album only sold two million copies, which isn’t much more than their debut album. If it really had boosted their careers so much, it would’ve been a blockbuster.

    They became huge when “Feels Like Today” came out, and especially after they sang with Underwood on Idol.

    I know I’ll get flack for this, so I’ll duck now…but Gary doesn’t seem that chubby to me. He looked heavy at the ACM’s, but then I saw some pictures from the Brooks and Dunn tribute and he looked perfectly fine. Doesn’t matter anyway, they aren’t losing fans over it.

  31. Razor X
    April 22, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Considering her peak of success was in the 90’s, and the fact that she had no successful music in the mainstream market, would you really count her among “current successful female artists?” I certaintly wouldn’t.

    She had no success in the mainstream market? Not only would I disagree with that statement, I’d also argue that she had a reasonable amount of success in the past decade.

  32. Stewman
    April 22, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Points to his PR team for drumming up any buzz around an artist with zero talent, and comes across as a complete tool

  33. Michelle
    April 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Noeller, I agree with you about the 9513. I think I LOL way too much. I can always, somehow, visualize a mouth, uttering the words, as I’m reading Ricks comments. Why? IDK! I often wonder if, maybe, that’s what his mouth really looks like!LOL!

  34. WIll
    April 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    the part i think alot of the people here are missing (9513 readers and writers) is that not all music has to be ground breaking and moving. There is a place for someone who just makes music they like and don’t fall into the mainstream so radio will play it. When i want to hear some amazing music, i’ll throw in Jamey johnson, when i just want to drive to work and enjoy myself with some tunes, i’ll throw in some Colt. I’ll take an act like Colt over the hundreds of nashville minions who never write a song and their only goal is for one song to get airplay so their tired album will sell. I’m surprised at times how a site like this that focuses on great artists making their music the way they want, and not listening to A&Rs and Execs who tell them to be funnier or get prettier backup singers can still be so judgemental when someone else does the exact same thing. Colt got zero radio play and moved 150k units, then came back with another album that’ll get zero radio play. There’s a group of artists and fans out there who love all genres of music and I’m glad some of these artists are merging them these days. Congrats to average joes for competing as an independent and sticking to their guns.

  35. Stewman
    April 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Will,
    The words “Great Artists” and Colt Ford should never appear in the same paragraph.

  36. Will
    April 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    They didn’t Stew. I said this site focuses on great artists who go against the trend and still gives crap to others who buck the trend and make music they oike

  37. Razor X
    April 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I said this site focuses on great artists who go against the trend and still gives crap to others who buck the trend and make music they oike

    Just because an artist “goes against the trend” doesn’t mean that the results are good, so why wouldn’t the reviews differ from artist to artist?

  38. Stormy
    April 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t understand this concept. Why am I supposed to congratulate someone for making subpar music? Hell, at work everyday I get to listen to the radio and if I were listening to white noise music I would go insane.

  39. Noeller
    April 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    @Michelle – it’s my favourite thing about this site. It’s got the snarkiness of Fark a lot of the time, to go along with fabulous writing (Jimmy M’s way with words is the highlight of this blog!) Love the humour on here!!

    @Razor – Couldn’t agree more. We all love someone who goes against the grain, but if it doesn’t produce quality, then we can’t applaud it. Like I said, I really WANT to get behind Colt Ford for being different, but the product is just so terrible, it’s almost impossible to do!

  40. will
    April 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    150k albums sold independently shows that not everyone agrees with the product being as horrible as people here think. I’m not saying everyone is supposed to love the guys music, there are a lot of people who don’t care to have Cash, Hank and Jay-Z on their ipods, I get that. I just happen to be a guy who grew up with Hank Jr and Ice Cube, so the sound appeals to me. Not to mention that he’s getting guys like Kevin Fowler, Rhett Atkins and Brantley Gilbert some attention with guests spots. Fowler is great on “Hip Hop in a Honky Tonk” by the way.

  41. Stormy
    April 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I also grew up in the 90’s. Trust me, Ice-T is the Ice you want.

  42. Jon
    April 23, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I always enjoy reading posts wherein people tell others, “stop liking what you like, and like what I like instead.”

  43. Will
    April 23, 2010 at 11:16 am

    @STORMY Always liked Cube better, but Ice T was in the playlist too. Seems very strange that now they are in Kids movies and cop dramas

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