Amanda Ford

On Fire

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There are many singer/songwriters who are extremely guitar-based. Whether they are playing an unaccompanied acoustic set in a small coffeehouse or playing an amplified high-volume set with a full band, their guitar (be it electric or acoustic) is something they prefer to have with them at all times. But other singer/songwriters have a decidedly pianistic approach, and On Fire illustrates the fact that Amanda Ford -- like Sarah McLachlan, Nellie McKay and Tori Amos -- is very much a part of the pianistic school of female singer/songwriters. The Pittsburgh resident plays the piano on all of the tracks (many of which find her providing some synthesizers as well), and that pianistic outlook works to Ford's artistic advantage whether she is combining pop/rock with country on "Contagious" and "Jesse," funk on "Nothing Personal," or jazz on the Joni Mitchell-ish "Quicksand." Ford (whose direct or indirect influences range from Mitchell to McLachlan to Paula Cole to Emmylou Harris) is not the type of vocalist who shouts to get your attention; she clearly recognizes the value of understatement (something that she has in common with Mitchell). But emotionally, Ford still gets her points across on these introspective songs. It should be noted that Ford -- in addition to writing all the songs -- handled all of the arrangements. And that is a good thing because her tasteful arrangements never get in the way of her vocals or lyrics. These are songs that called for intimate arrangements -- not cluttered, thick or busy arrangements -- and Ford sees to that an intimate sound prevails throughout the album. On Fire falls short of being a masterpiece, but it's an enjoyable and sincere effort from the West Pennsylvanian.

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