Release Date: Jul 25, 2011
Record label: Light in the Attic Records
Some great albums explode like fireworks, engendering a whole constellation of successors and admirers; some shine with a more self-sufficient light, an end in themselves. Jim Ford’s 1969 masterpiece Harlan County is one of the latter, for Ford was an artist whose fortunes never lived up to his talent. A timeless mix of country, funk, and hillbilly music, Harlan County was only esteemed in cult circles and by the more knowing of Ford’s peers.
At his best, Jim Ford was a clever songwriter, capable of reworking rock & roll, R&B, and country clichés into fresh, funny roots rock. At his worst, Ford was cutesy and unfocused, pulling good songs into awkward detours. Harlan County, the only album he ever completed, captures Ford at both extremes. The laid-back, rootsy sound of Harlan County -- equal parts country-rock, soul, and pop -- provided a touchstone for British pub rock, especially for Brinsley Schwarz, which covered Ford's "JuJu Man" and "Niki Hoeke Speedway" (Brinsley's chief songwriter, Nick Lowe, later recorded "36 Inches High").