There are artists who can command attention. They lean into their songs with an irresistible edge and total emotional connection and stay there. Sallie Ford is one of those artists. On her fourth album, Soul Sick, Ford gathered her strengths, took them into Portland’s Type Foundry studio along with producer Mike Coykendall (M Ward, She & Him) at the helm and created music that draws on all of her influences but still comes out her own. As Sallie describes, “This is a ‘confessional’ album. It’s about struggling with my issues – some that I’ve overcome and some that I still carry around.” The album opens with the line, “Woke up feeling sour on the sweetest summer day,” which just about sums up Sallie Ford’s state of mind a few years ago. A band breakup with the Sound Outside in 2013 led to new realizations about the things in her life that needed to change. As she jumped headfirst into those efforts, she signed with Vanguard Records, handpicked a new all-female backing band and released the debut album under her own name, 2014’s Slap Back. It marked a big transition in Ford’s sound, allowing her voice to take center stage amid a band sound of chugging distorted grit. It also gave her a new chance to take a stronger grip on her career and her personal life. With those deep shifts gave new questions, though, ones that weren’t always easy to answer. “I felt confused, down about life and unsure of myself,” explains Ford.
One listen to Soul Sick attests to all those thoughts. Ford’s vocals continue to mature, with less nuanced delivery and more belting clarity. Her vulnerability and ‘60s fusion have evolved her sound into new territory, but also provide a bridge for new and previous listeners. “I think my biggest goal with this new album is to be relatable to what I originally started out as, as well as what I’ve become,” Ford says.
No matter how you approach Soul Sick, the only prognosis is: mission accomplished. With a new studio band including Garth Klippert (Old Light) and Kris Doty (Modern Kin) on board, the fire is there. Add on guest musicians Ben Nugent (Dolorean), Ralph Carney (Tom Waits, the B-52s), John Coykendall and Kirk Hamilton, and these 11 new songs stand as Sallie Ford’s step into a new world. “It wasn’t even my goal at first to write these songs, it was more like ‘I want to write about struggling with my demons.’ But it became something more. I felt like some of that negativity I was able to write about with a positive light after the fact.”