Colt Ford, Jason Farris Brown

Colt Ford headlines Friday night's Summer Concert Series at Black Diamond Harley-Davidson in Marion.

AP

Just when everyone thought they had Colt Ford figured out, he throws a big curve ball.

Ford is the originator of the country-rap style that dominates today's mainstream country radio. However, recent single release “4 Lane Gone,” is a sound more closely associated to George Strait traditional than Sam Hunt progressive.

“This is more country than anything I've ever done,” Ford says. “I've never got the love I think I should have from radio. When I first came out, they said, 'We love this stuff. We just don't know what to do with it.' I want a big radio hit, so I make a record I think they will play and I get this 'that does sound like Colt Ford' feedback. This business will drive you crazy.”

The 47-year-old Ford has built an enormous fan base with his unique vocal style, a blend of singing mixed with rap. He wrote and first recorded “Dirt Road Anthem” in 2008, which was covered by then-newcomer Brantley Gilbert in 2009 and in 2010 was the tune that bumped Jason Aldean into superstar status.

Ford also wrote “Country Must Be Country Wide” for Gilbert.

His sixth studio album, “Love Hope Faith,” was released May 5. It features guests artists Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Granger Smith and many others.

“I'm unbelievably excited about the new album. It's the best record I've ever made,” Ford says. “It shows how much I've grown as an artist. I'm thrilled with every cut. There is a little something for everyone on this one.”

Ford will be in concert Friday, headlining the opening night of the Black Diamond Harley-Davidson Summer Concert Series in Marion. Also appearing will be LoCash and opening act McCoy.

Gates open at 5 p.m. and music starts at 5:30 p.m.

Toby Keith will be the main event Saturday, with guests David Lee Murphy and Waterloo Revival. Opening act Kendell Marvel will take the stage at 5:30 p.m., approximately 30 minutes after gates open.

Tickets for Friday are $18, $28 and $38, plus fees if purchased online. For Saturday, tickets are $48, $68 and $88, plus applicable fees. For more information, call 618-997-4577 or visit the dealership website at blackdiamondhd.com.

Ford says he has never been anything but a country-music lover. He spent his Georgia childhood listening to classics by George Jones and Merle Haggard, but before his life revolved around songwriting and concert tours, he was more focused on reading greens and pounding golf balls on the driving range.

The winner of many junior golf tournaments, Ford earned All-American honors at the University of Georgia and played on a variety of minitours for seven years, then spent a couple years as a teaching professional, before a freak injury ended his professional golf career.

“I was playing in a tournament in Mexico and leading by three strokes going into the last day,” he said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “After dinner, we were standing outside of a restaurant and this lady was about to fall. When I moved to try and catch her, I slipped off a curb. I was wearing sandals and broke several bones in the top of my foot.”

Ford still plays at a high level. He shot 66 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am a couple years ago. Playing with fellow country artist Justin Moore and Champions Tour member Glen Day, he shot 3-under par at a course in Wisconsin two weeks ago.

Prior to taking the stage Friday, he plans to play at a local course with Bart Lincoln of Marion, creator of Bad Bart Guitars.

Moving golf to the back burner, Ford shifted his focus to music. After migrating to Nashville, the first person he co-wrote with was Jamey Johnson. When they took the song into a studio to make a demo, the session was produced by Sparta native Noah Gordon, who also co-produced Ford's most recent album.

Ford realized his music was different. He didn't mind the “country rap” label, but he drew the line at accepting criticism because virtually all his songs contained spoken words.

“My music isn't any different than 'Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)' by Tex Williams or Charlie Ryan's 'Hot Rod Lincoln,'” Ford says. “Singers like Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed, Charlie Daniels and Toby Keith have had major hits with songs that have spoken parts, but when I do it, people are confused. I don't know why. I've always been country to the core.”

With the changing dynamic of how recorded music was going to be delivered to the masses, Ford knew his future was not on Nashville's suit-filled Music Row. He created his own record label, Average Joe Entertainment, and has found his niche. His last five albums have made it into the Top 10 of the charts, with “Declaration of Independence” climbing all the way to the top in 2012.

A master of social media, Ford has 1.6 million Facebook fans, 360,000 Twitter followers and over 100 million views of his YouTube material. 

VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or vincehoffard@gmail.com.

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