England Dan & John Ford Coley

Dowdy Ferry Road

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Sustaining radio airplay through most of 1977 with the two hit singles from their album Dowdy Ferry Road, both 45s hovering just above the Top 25 (although "It's Sad To Belong" topped the AC charts where these guys ruled), this project is the most bleak in the repertoire of England Dan and John Ford Coley. The front cover is dark, with the two men looking very serious, while the back of the album has them in a very affectionate pose -- much happier. "It's Sad to Belong" was written by Randy Goodrun who would hit two years later with Anne Murray's version of "Broken Hearted Me." Dan Seals and John Coley recorded "Broken Hearted Me" as well for 1979's uneven Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive, and it would have fit perfectly in this melancholy setting. Outside of Parker McGee's "Where Do I Go From Here" and the aforementioned "It's Sad to Belong," the Dowdy Ferry Road album was entirely written or co-written by the singers. Just about everything on this collection has minor keys and sad voices: "Soldier in the Rain," "Love Is the One Thing We Have," and "Don't Feel That Way No More" are rife with lines like "time has brought me here with empty hands" or "the way to my heart is a closed door." Depressing stuff. Even John Ford Coley's hit "Gone Too Far," a song about not wanting to, but falling in love, makes the good fortune almost feel like tough luck. The album would have benefited from the addition of more outside material -- imagine if they took on Tommy James "Sweet Cherry Wine," or an Elton John and Bernie Taupin song, something uplifting and cheerful. Given Kyle Lehning's production and these strong voices, smarter song selection would have added another, very necessary dimension. Although it is the most up track, "Gone Too Far" is the beginning of this pair getting into a rut of formula folk rock. Despite the down emotions, and that the pleasant sounding and listenable Dowdy Ferry Road breaks no new ground, it is an interesting chapter which continued their succession of hits. Perhaps this is where Seals and Crofts should have paired up with England Dan and John Ford Coley. Now that would have been a very interesting event and could have sustained the careers of all involved.

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