the backstory: Michael Ford, Jr., and The Apache Relay – “1988”

A reader/friend tip from Raliegh (thanks Andy Wood) led me to check out Michael Ford, Jr. & The Apache Relay and their first album, 1988. The band, which formed at the well-respected music school of Belmont Univeristy in Nashville, has a similar sound to the earlier The Avett Brothers albulms (when they were still playing bluegrass), but with stronger, more polished musical talent. Ford’s voice is much like that of Sam Quinn of the now defuct folk duo, the everybodyfields. I’m a fan.

Paste featured Ford & Apache in its “Best of What’s Next” column earlier this week, where Ford discussed how the band came together, the new album and how the band is trying to mesh before they hit the road.

1988, a record born of inspiration from Springsteen’s stripped-down solo effort, blossomed into something far more lush as Ford welcomed the Apache boys into the fold. It’s a spirited collection of songs that shine with hope like light under a doorway. “Sweet Louisianne,” Ford’s love letter to his hometown of New Orleans, brims with optimism as he consoles, “Remember who’s on our side,” over fiddle sighs and mandolin chirps. His songwriting is consistently earnest, kind and comforting, traits matched in the bright bluegrass accompaniment. “Seasons were meant to end / I will not try to start again,” he sings to an old friend on “Sisters, Brothers, Lovers.”

“A lot of the time, people and friends and things that happen are for seasons,” he says of the track. “And you have to move on and realize that and not get stuck.” He and his Apache Relay are taking this to heart, approaching each phase of their collaboration without looking back but taking every opportunity that crosses their path. Their summer of touring has lasted well into the fall, and they’ve got more shows in the works for the winter and spring. “This season’s almost like the calm before the storm,” says Ford. “One thing we’re really focused on is having right relationships within the band before we get on the road with each other. So right now, we’re just trying to love one another and be healthy as a band before we hit the road to tour.”

My favorite tracks are “Sweet Louisianne” and “Sugarcane.”

Paste Magazine: “Best of What’s Next: Michael Ford, Jr. & The Apache Relay”

1988 on lala