There are those who would reject Colt Ford out of hand, based on his interpretation of country music. No matter how many fiddles and banjos he includes on his songs, no matter how many country singers he duets with, there is the inescapable fact that Ford raps on his songs. While country and rap have had a few successful pairings, the idea of a country rapper hasn't resulted in much significant airplay for Ford, despite record sales that would make any independent artist envious.
Ford's latest, "Declaration of Independence," doesn't break any new ground. He brings in a bunch of guest vocalists to sing part of the song - usually the chorus - while Ford raps the lyrics. The majority of the songs are about the country - living in it, drinking in it, missing it, being proud of it, threatening to kick the ass of anyone who doesn't respect it.
While some may reject his claims to be considered "country music," there's no denying that "Independence" uses as much fiddle, banjo and steel guitar than most mainstream country releases. Some of the songs sound positively traditional when compared to the rock- and pop-country songs in the mainstream. All In with Kix Brooks is a pleasant honky-tonker that would have fit in with an early Brooks & Dunn album, and Way Too Early is a mid-tempo lost love song that is right in guest Darius Rucker's wheelhouse. Montgomery Gentry guests on one of the best tracks, Ain't Out of the Woods, a rare light-hearted song that doesn't lose its humor after a couple of listens. Ford packs a lot of content into his lyrics, and he creates some excellent visuals in this tale of a redneck trapped in suburbia.
The "country pride" songs dominate, and there are so many of them saying essentially the same thing that they become indistinguishable. Worse, they become distinguishable for the wrong reasons - Dancin' While Intoxicated with the Lo-Cash Cowboys has to be one of the worst songs of 2012, in any genre.
When Ford does step out of his comfort zone, he can take his game to the next level. Angels & Demuns has Ford rapping about keeping his music career without selling his soul in the process. Backed with Lamar Williams Jr. singing snippets of What a Friend We Have in Jesus, it's a stunner of a song and shows Ford is capable of much deeper material than how much Southerners like biscuits and gravy.