Blessed with a strong, distinctive, and versatile instrument, vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Sallie Ford first earned a reputation for her inspired retro-styled music that incorporated elements of vintage jazz, blues, and rock, before she shifted gears with an adventurous and updated sound and a new band. Ford was born in Asheville, North Carolina on September 4, 1987. She grew up in a family of artists -- her father was a well-known puppeteer and her mother taught music -- but feeling intimidated by their well-respected backgrounds, she preferred to be "the weird one" (her phrase) in the household, and turned her back on her childhood violin lessons to take up guitar and concentrate on her singing. In 2006, Ford dropped out of college and moved to Portland, Oregon; influenced by fellow Southerners the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cat Power, as well as her longtime favorite Tom Waits, Ford began forging a new singing and songwriting style while supporting herself by waiting tables. When Ford met bassist Tyler Tornfelt and drummer Ford Tennis, two Alaskans who had come to Portland to form a new band, the three clicked and formed a trio that soon expanded to a quartet when guitarist Jeffrey Munger saw them busking on a Portland sidewalk. Calling their quartet Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, they released their debut EP in 2009, and the following year they were named Portland's best new band by Willamette Week. Another lucky break arrived when a member of the Avett Brothers heard the new band and championed their clever, offbeat retro sound, talking up Ford and company in interviews and taking the group on the road as the Brothers' opening act. After signing a deal with Partisan Records, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside cut two albums (2011's Dirty Radio and 2013's Untamed Beast) and an EP (2013's Summer) before announcing in December 2013 that Ford and her band were parting ways. Ford had said more than once that one of her ambitions was to form an all-female band, and with the Sound Outside in her past, she made good on her promise. For her new combo, Ford took over on lead guitar and recruited Cristina Cano (of Albatross and Siren & the Sea) on keyboards, Anita Lee Elliot (from Viva Voce and Blue Giant) on bass, and Amanda Spring (a veteran of Point Juncture, WA) on drums. Inspired by a handful of her favorite female rockers ranging from Pat Benatar to Exene Cervenka to PJ Harvey, Ford began writing songs with a more aggressive and modern sound, and headed into the studio with Chris Funk of the Decemberists as producer. Ford's first album credited solely to her, Slap Back, was released by Vanguard Records in October 2014. She continued to work on her own for 2017's Soul Sick, which was also released on Vanguard. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 10, 2017 | Concord Records
Soul Sick is the second solo album from Sallie Ford, who split with her band the Sound Outside in 2014, but in some ways this 2017 album feels more like a debut than its predecessor. Chalk that up to how Ford delves right into personal territory on Soul Sick, a move that is slightly telegraphed by the album's title. Throughout the album, she sings about loss and anxiety, issues that are common to many, but her songs offer a specific, personalized spin on these troubles. Similarly, Ford's music is idiosyncratic and surprising, fusing together elements of the past and present. Like Slap Back before it, Soul Sick demonstrates a stronger debt to indie rock than anything the Sound Outside did, but she's threading in some of the retro sounds that are at the foundation of her music. There are hints of Farfisa-fueled girl groups, rousing soul ballads, galloping rockabilly, even swirling wah-wah psychedelia, all sounds that sit nicely next to the big-footed stomp of "Never Gonna Please" or the jangle of "Record on Repeat." Producer Mike Coykendall helps tie these sounds together into a seamless tapestry, but Soul Sick really holds together due to Ford's strength of personality. She pleads, yelps, and croons, alternating between agitation and desperation, and that raw emotion is the true hook on Soul Sick. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Alternative & Indie - Released October 14, 2014 | Universal Music
From the first moment she stepped up to a microphone, it's been obvious that Sallie Ford has a great voice and no fear of putting it to use, but as good and as adventurous as her two albums with the Sound Outside were, the retro affectations that defined much of her work also seemed to be holding her back in some way. That all changes with 2014's Slap Back, her first album after breaking with the Sound Outside and forming a new band. While Ford still sounds proudly idiosyncratic on Slap Back, her adventurous phrasing feels less showy and more organic here, and while the music still has its fair share of quirks, she's tossed away the vintage blues and jazz accents in favor of a more contemporary sort of indie rock, emphasis on rock, though "Hey Girl" suggests she's been digging some classic girl group sides, the buzzy keyboard line on "Lucky to Miss" clearly keys into contemporary dance pop and hip-hop, and "Let Go" sounds just a bit like EDM played by a live band. Ford's new combo -- Cristina Cano on keyboards, Anita Lee Elliot on bass, and Amanda Spring on drums -- hits a lot harder than the Sound Outside, and Ford's raw, echoey guitar sound nods to her earlier work, but Slap Back feels rougher, more spontaneous, and more sincere at the same time. The vibe of Slap Back is one of kids in the garage, knocking out tunes without worrying much about generic conventions or the necessity of putting on a show, and Ford seems to thrive on it; there are fewer vocal flights of fancy and more moments where she slips into the melody and is happy to look around, but she's as passionate and powerful as ever. And while Ford has never been shy about baring her soul on-stage or in the studio, these songs are less guarded or theatrical than before, and they work all the better for it. Add in Chris Funk's simple, empathetic production, and Slap Back sounds like a fresh and satisfying new beginning for Sallie Ford, where she gives herself a sonic makeover and gains more than she loses. ~ Mark Deming
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