Release date: August 07, 2007
Jazz/blues guitar legend Robben Ford’s latest album Truth (Concord Records) features a set of sophisticated blues songs that really shows his strength as a songwriter. Though much of his early work was in the jazz and fusion genre’s, Ford only takes occasional trips into that realm nowadays (e.g., with Jing Chi). The main focus of his solo albums has almost always been the blues; that’s certainly the case with Truth. Whether it’s the trials and tribulations of the 9-to-5 grind (“Lateral Climb”), a tribute to a musical icon (“Riley B King”, co-written with Keb’ Mo’ as an homage to B.B. King), or even an anti-war message (“Peace On My Mind”), Ford’s common denominator on this album is the blues.
As a guitarist, the part of Ford’s playing that has always struck me is his touch. His phrases have a very mature, dynamic feel to them that is instantly recognizable. The guy sounds like he’s been playing for a hundred years. And his tone has that enviable strong-yet-clean quality that most players in this genre strive for. There’s a dry, natural punchiness to his sound that really allows the nuances of his touch come through.
Even though Truth’s focus is the songwriting, and the stories Ford wants to tell, there are many guitar highlights on this album. Ford’s soloing here is obviously blues-based, but his jazz chops pop up now and then as well. The “jazziest” guitar lines on the album are on “How Deep In The Blues (Do You Want To Go)”. This is a sophisticated blues song with some nice changes that give Ford a chance to stretch out a bit harmonically. Ford’s cover of the Otis Redding song “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” features some great playing also. This track has a fun, live feel to it, especially near the end (the only other cover on the album is a shuffling, funky version of Paul Simon’s “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” with guest vocalist Susan Tedeschi ). “You’re Gonna Need A Friend” really stands out as well. Co-written with Ford’s wife, Anne Kerry Ford, this track features great backing vocals courtesy of Siedah Garrett, and some cool changes for the solo section.
The most “guitar-heavy” song on Truth is probably “Too Much” (written by Ford’s nephew Gabriel Ford). This is a deliberate, grinding tune that ends with some nice interplay between Ford and Larry Goldings on the Hammond B3 organ. The excellent Live In Tokyo album that Larry Carlton recorded with Ford last fall includes a great live version of this song. The strong minor blues cut “Moonchild Blues” is another highlight. The kind of lines Ford plays here are what sets him apart as a guitarist and improviser. Within the blues genre, there aren’t many players who can whip out the cool jazz lines Ford uses in this song. He turns what could have been a standard minor blues into something hipper and more mature.
In all, Truth is a fine collection of contemporary blues songs. Aided by a stellar cast of guest musicians and co-writers, Ford has succeeded in crafting a fresh-sounding album, within the framework of an age-old musical style. This is also the case from a blues guitar standpoint. Ford’s jazz vocabulary adds a sophistication to his blues playing that few players can match. His solos here are always tasty, inventive, and highly enjoyable. The same could be said for the album as a whole.
Modern Guitars Magazine.
Keep On Running
Label: Concord Records - 0-13431-21872-2
Distribution in France: Harmonia Mundi
Release date: October 01, 2003
A modern-day master of blues guitar (and a versatile jazz guitarist who can rock just as easily) you would be hard pressed to find something that Robben Ford has not already done – and done with creativity and musicality – on the guitar. When you listen to Eric Clapton and George Harrison’s “Badge”, it really lifts off when Ford starts soloing. His tone is a sound you can get lost in. On Keep on Running, Ford’s creative juices are undeniably running freely, as he melds the potent influences of electric blues, rock and r&b into an urgent, undiluted, full-strength blend. Robbens signature wailing guitar, his honest, no frills vocals; his rocking band and some added horns all add up to an album that rocks and grooves from beginning to end. An album that is sure to be a Robben Ford milestone.
Label: Concord Records
Release date: March 12, 2002
Over the years many people have asked, “Will the real Robben Ford please stand up?” Those are the people who wonder if the singer/guitarist is really a blues-rock vocalist or a jazz fusion instrumentalist at heart. But truth be told, Ford is many different things. He is genuinely eclectic, which is why one never really knows from one album to the next what direction he will take. Blue Moon, Ford’s first album for Concord Jazz, is primarily a vocal date. Ford gets in his share of inspired guitar solos, and he provides one instrumental: the gutsy “Indianola.” But most of the time he sings. And as a vocalist, he favors an exciting blend of blues, rock, and soul on tracks like “Something for the Pain,” “Don’t Deny Your Love,” and “The Way You Treated Me (You’re Gonna Be Sorry).” Meanwhile, “It Don’t Make Sense (You Can’t Make Peace)” and the moody “Make Me Your Only One” are among the CD’s more jazz-tinged vocal offerings. Ford does not embrace a standard 12-bar blues format on all of the material, but then, he never claimed to be a blues purist. Ford isn’t a blues purist any more than he is a rock purist, a jazz purist, or an R&B purist — he is much too restless and broad-minded to be any type of purist. That isn’t good news if you only like one type of music, but it is very good news if you share Ford’s eclectic outlook and have admired his diversity over the years. Ford was in his late forties when he recorded Blue Moon in the early 2000s, and this pleasing CD is the work of a musician who is still very much on top of his game.