Ford is one of the blues’ funkiest, jazziest practitioners.
Martin Longley 2009-10-01
Californian Robben Ford is not necessarily a blues guitarist. His real arrival came with the jazz-fusing Yellowjackets in the late 1970s, but Ford had also been consistently playing with artists from all manner of musical zones, notably including George Harrison, Jimmy Witherspoon, Joni Mitchell and Miles Davis. Nevertheless, the blues is still at the heart of his style, even though Ford is one of its funkiest, jazziest practitioners.
This live set was recorded at The Independent venue in San Francisco, efficiently capturing the current state of Ford's rocking four-piece combo. Also featured is a pair of new songs, which were laid down live in the studio. Ford chops out with a wah-wah pedal verbosity, opening with Supernatural, the title track of his 1999 album. There's a constantly scorched edge to his solos, as they articulately oscillate in tone, from a rumbling bullishness up to a controlled howl. His style’s very vocal in its nature, and when Ford sings in his soulfully crying swoop, this acts like an extension of his guitar acrobatics.
Most of the songs here are trundling rockaboogie numbers, but there are several pauses for ballad sensitivity. There'll Never Be Another You breaks up into a drifting progress, allowing recurring drum features from Toss Panos. Ford's own extended solo whispers straight into his vocal lines. The best stretches are when the band hunkers down for a harder blues feeling, as with Willie Dixon's Spoonful and an Elmore James/Jimmy Reed medley. This is where Neal Evans gets to slur and sluice his Hammond B3 organ. Between these two tracks is Ford's best original of the disc, with Nothin' to Nobody hovering on the brink of frustrated desolation, as its protagonist fantasises about the lonesome life. This one's probably not a Ford family favourite.
The closing studio cuts sound nowhere near as frazzled as the onstage material, but they benefit from a greater range of texture, not least courtesy of the guesting Karl Denson (alto saxophone) and Larry Goldings (Hammond B3).