First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Thu August 16, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Robben Ford has been writing, recording, and releasing music under his own name since the mid-í70s. Despite receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 1988 for Talk to Your Daughter, however, he remains better known for the work he has done with Miles Davis, George Harrison, and Joni Mitchell. Not only did he spend time touring with them, but he also contributed to Harrisonís Dark Horse and Mitchellís The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Since joining the Concord family in 2002, Ford has been focused on reaching a wider audience. All three of his albums for the label ó Blue Moon, Keep on Running, and his most recent endeavor Truth ó have been designed to highlight his versatile guitar playing by framing it with sophisticated, adult contemporary arrangements.
As a singer and a songwriter, Ford offers nothing that is terribly special. The material on Truth is a standard hodgepodge of blues, soul, and jazz, none of which would sound out of place on albums by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Steve Winwood, James Taylor, or Steely Dan. At the same time, Fordís lyrics wander across the usual terrain, which stretches from relationships (Thereíll Never Be Another You) to political commentary (Lateral Climb, Peace on My Mind) to odes to B.B. King (Riley B. King). Similarly, his vocals glide over the top of the music in a pleasant if unremarkable fashion. To be fair, Fordís tunes are all quite agreeable, and the artists from whom he draws inspiration certainly are worth emulating. Nevertheless, although his songs donít weigh down the set, they donít do anything to elevate it either. Even his covers of Otis Reddingís Nobodyís Fault but Mine and Paul Simonís One Manís Ceiling Is Another Manís Floor ó the latter of which is performed as a duet with Susan Tedeschi ó are rendered as inoffensively as possible.
Still, thereís plenty to like about Truth, and whenever Ford focuses simply upon playing his guitar, he makes it impossible to turn away. Throughout the endeavor, his solos repeatedly inject a much needed blast of passion into the material, and each time he unleashes a string of notes, he commands close attention. Inspired by the stocky bass patterns supplied by Will Lee, he breathes fire into the grinding groove of Lateral Climb as well as the funky refrains of How Deep in the Blues (Do You Want to Go). Elsewhere, his lighter touch lends a pensive, but no less mesmerizing air to Peace on My Mind and River of Soul. Thereís no doubt that Fordís compositions are a tad too conservative and refined, but he knows his audience well. In the end, the sounds that he squeezes from his guitar make his deficiencies completely forgivable.
Truth is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box