D Ferren is the quintessential singer/songwriter. He makes gritty tunes that aren’t quite country, aren’t quite folk, but are very much rock n’ roll. He adds bits of familiarity: the organ-fueled white soul of Whiskeytown here, the guitar crunch of early Wilco there. But even with those inspirations present, Ferren’s musical world is a unique one, filled with hazier sounds that echo more art rock than Gram Parsons. His last album, the excellent For Glare & Gun, was a mixture of dusty melodies, ambitious arrangements and a carefree juke joint rock n’ roll abandon. Ferren’s new album, the equally excellent Something Like Forever, feels like a looser affair, though it’s just as ambitious in its intent. It’s nine tracks of big guitars, soaring harmonies and D Ferren sounding like a guy loving what he’s doing.“Some highways they head west on a greyhound dirty road, and I took with me the one thing that I owned,” Ferren sings on the boisterous and raucous organ-fueled album opener “Goodbye Rain.” It has the spirit of Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” with the looser vibes of Wilco’s “Monday.” It’s a fun road song and a great opener.
“Spoonful of Sugar” has more of a late-night vibe. Sultry rhythms, tasteful electric guitar and backing vocals by the always great Andrea Atwood give the song an almost jazzy feel. “Lost” opens with the lines “I wish you were on a plane falling from the sky / I wish you would’ve let me pass you by,” with Ferren admitting later on that “I was trying to love you, but I got lost along the way” as the song soars like a cross between Matthew Sweet and The Palace at 4 A.M.-era Jay Bennett with buzzing synths and Orange Opera’s Kevin Hambrick on background vox. It’s another sweeping mix of roots-y rock and bits of Big Star’s power pop.
“Cards On The Table” has a mournful feel with some great Leslie speaker-affected guitar – a very big and dramatic track that never lets up. “The Highway Is Abandoned” is a road song. All that’s needed is some open road and the windows rolled down. “I Lie A Little Bit” sounds like a declaration. It buzzes and whizzes ominously with synthesizers, cello and Ferren dropping lines like “I lie a little bit to you, but it don’t take me where I want to go.” It’s a ghostly track that lingers in the air like the night’s last cigarette.
Ferren enlisted the help of some of the most talented folks in the Fort Wayne music scene to help out on Something Like Forever. Besides the aforementioned Atwood and Hambrick, Mark Hutchins, Jeffrey James Alan, Tim Mangus, and Jim Barlow also helped out in the studio. As with For Glare & Gun, Something Like Forever was produced by Jason Davis and recorded at his Off the Cuff Sound. Davis also pulled multi-instrumentalist duties throughout the album.
As title track “Something Like Forever” closes out D Ferren’s newest record, you get the feeling that this album was a labor of love. It hits highs and at times lingers in the depths of existential crisis, but it never loses sight of serving the song. That final track fades with an almost “Hey Jude”-like jubilation. A fitting ending to a hell of a musical journey.
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November 17 • Honeywell Center