With each new release, Colt Ford has managed to raise his mainstream country profile. That’s no easy task for the Georgia-bred country rapper, who still has not gained widespread support at radio. However, whereas Colt’s 2008 debut Ride Through the Country entered the country album chart at No. 24, his latest genre-bending album, Declaration of Independence, scored the top spot – and placed No. 5 on the overall Billboard Top 200 – when released in early August. Fueled by a pounding set of blue-collar anthems, Declaration of Independence relies on staples from both country and hip-hop as Colt delivers his most dynamic set to date.
Defiant in its title, Declaration of Independence opens with the self-statement, “Answer To No One.” The stomp is heavy after backwoods banjo, fiddle and aggressive electric guitars prime the attack. Colt’s delivery is quick, rhythmic and steeped in hip-hop rhymes, yet his lyrics and themes are undeniably country. Colt’s world is full of hard work, prayer and patriotism, and with an assist from label mate JJ Lawhorn through the chorus, the song sets the stage for an album packed full of country hooks.
On all but one of the project’s 15 songs, choruses are reserved for a different guest. Darius Rucker adds his bouncing vocal to the contemporary country-leaning “Way Too Early.” Montgomery Gentry reprise their collaboration with Colt after he starred on the remix of the duo’s hit “Roll With Me.” This time they get together for “Ain’t Out of the Woods Yet,” a southern-rock inspired romp through the ‘burbs that finds Colt [sighting his] bow on a Styrofoam doe by the hole of the 18th green.
On the swinging “All In,” Kix Brooks lends rolling vocals for the night-out party track, and on “Lucky,” Jonathan Singleton helps Colt turn traditional country on its head. Colt’s deep farm drawl and Jonathan’s smoky voice are a fantastic send-up for a fiddle hoedown that breaks out halfway through the song. Colt co-wrote Jason Aldean’s megahit “Dirt Road Anthem,” and Jason returns the favor here with an assist on the warm, summer-feeling “Drivin’ Around Song.” One of the project’s highlights is current single, “Back,” with Jake Owen. Jake provides a harmonic, neo-traditional chorus while Colt waxes nostalgic. Nothin’ better than a BB gun in my backyard just huntin’ squirrels, he sings fondly of his rural childhood while hitting on vivid details like old baseball fields that are now parking lots and lessons learned from his father.
Not all the duets feature country stars. Wanya Morris of R&B group Boyz II Men guests on the captivating “Happy In Hell,” a tormented love song full of lyin’ and cheatin’, while Southern Gospel artist Lamar Williams, Jr. appears on the introspective album-closer “Angels & Demuns.” Sometimes I feel I sold my soul for a song, Colt sings on the latter. However, whatever Colt feels he may have bought most certainly wasn’t anyone else’s brand of country, as the way both of these weave R&B, Southern Gospel and country together is completely unique.
“Dancin’ While Intoxicated,” featuring the LoCash Cowboys and Redneck Social Club, is the set’s most hip-hop feeling track. Colt channels his inner-Ludacris over the club beat while dropping in plenty of modern country references such as being a “Cowboy Casanova” on a “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.”
On Declaration of Independence, Colt Ford does just that. The style here is undoubtedly his own, and even his guests get caught up in the good time. On “Room at the Bar,” Corey Smith not only sings the chorus on the thick, acoustic-based track, but also takes a turn dropping his own rhymes. And that’s what makes Declaration of Independence such a fun album. Through all the twists and turns, genre-mashing and spoken words, it really just comes down to a good ol’ country boy doing things his way, offering his perspective, and making sure to invite everyone to the party.
Key Tracks – “Back,” “Room at the Bar,” “Happy In Hell,” “Lucky”