Living right between Chicago and Milwaukee, it’s very easy to get spoiled by the thriving music scene. I’m not only referring to the major acts that come through both cities, but the local acts, as well. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the incredible regional music scene since I was a kid, and I love the close-knit band of musicians in the area.
One musician that I’ve been following for years is Miss Ivy Ford. I first encountered her talents at a jam session in a local VFW open mic. It was after 10pm. We’d all had turns playing some blues and rock tunes when Ivy walked in. With grace and style, the young Miss Ford mopped up the place for five or six songs. Even then, at her somewhat young age, her voice was full and her guitar chops commanded respect.
Years later – last year in fact – she put out her debut album of all-original music, and it received a tremendous amount of play in our house here. “Time to Shine” is chock full of great blues grooves and amazing songwriting from start to finish. So, when I got word that Ivy and her crew were putting out their sophomore effort, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy.
“Harvesting My Roots” opens strong with the title cut, showcasing Ivy’s slide guitar talents. It doesn’t take long before her rich voice gives way to stellar lead guitar work. An Ivy Ford show is always a great display of vocals and guitar, and the CD starts off by giving us a taste of what that’s like.
Track 2 brings piano into the mix on “Daddy of Mine.” Here, Willie Ranch’s bass line plays beautifully along with the keys, filling the song out strongly. Ivy’s voice soars over everything, breaking up just a little, crying out with just the right amount of pain. Have mercy.
Dave Axen throws down a fantastic groove in the next track “One Life to Live,” a song that dares you not to crank it up and dance in your living room. Ivy dedicates these lyrics to the listener. Life’s too short and you only have one life to live. Preach on.
So, as the disc progresses into track 4, “Not in the Right Way,” I will mention that this disc has a better production value for me than the first album did. I really like the staging of the guitars in the mix, the punchiness of the bass, and tightness of the drums. Overall, the album has a more professional, polished sound that the talent on this record deserves.
“Devil Song” opens with haunting vocals laced with thick echo backed with slide guitar that is instantly my favorite so far. It’s somewhat reminiscent of early Led Zeppelin, if you’ll forgive me. Once I’m done with this review, it’s the song I’m going to go back to and play loudly on my old vintage speakers, loudly. It just needs to happen.
Ivy has always had a penchant for hip-shaking jump blues and she hops right back into it with “Work for My Love.” It’s a blistering song that I’m dying to hear live.
The band slows us down for “Similar Street.” Ivy’s voice cries against Axen’s slow groove. The song displays a 50’s sensibility, when songwriting could really grip your heart and soul, with timeless guitar riffs and vocal melodies.
“Whiskey Love” brings me straight to New Orleans with this cautionary tale of brown liquor. Pure voodoo set to music, it’s quite unlike anything I’ve heard from Ivy before. As if we weren’t already bewitched! The song went on for an entrancing 6-and-a-half minutes, but I still didn’t want it to end.
The whiskey must have kicked in hard, because in the next track she’s begging someone not to “Start a Fight.” A rollicking fast blues groove, this is definitely the most fun song of the album. Highlighted by a hard-picked solo, this three-minute rocker has got me smiling!
Wrapping up the album, Ivy gets downright funky with “Where Does it All End.” Here is where I would love for all of you to be listening to this album on a really good stereo system. Vocals and guitars are panned very nicely in the mix, providing a wide soundstage that sounds immense. Ivy’s solo comes in at four minutes, pouring from the left speaker, dripping with Stratocaster magic. The backing vocals paint a mural across the back wall.
Expressions like “local treasure” are thrown around too easily when it comes to up-and-coming artists, but there is a good reason fans flock to see the Ivy Ford Band. Besides being a solid band, Ivy puts on one hell of a show. Now with two albums of incredible original songs to showcase, it will always be a great night of live entertainment.