Bringing It Back Home
BluesWax Rating: 8 out of 10
Fresh and Mature Sounds
Has it been that long that Robben Ford made his previous studio album, Truth, in 2007? Ford’s latest is his first for the Provogue label and features well-known superlative session players like Larry Goldings’ top-shelf B3; Harvey Mason, who bristles on drums; bassist David Pilch, and trombonist Stephen Baxter. Ten tunes are included. Oddly only two are (somewhat) authored by Ford, two are by the prolific Crescent City legend Allen Toussaint, and the balance were written by other notables, more on those later.
The opener, Toussaint’s “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky,” sets the tone here as the band settles into a fascinating roux, first with Goldings’ intriguing organ, solid bass playing by Pilch, who’s locked in with the concrete Mason’s drumming as Baxter fills sweetly, but it’s the leader who’s comfortably in the pocket with his sparse guitar playing and solid vocals. “Birds Nest Bound” by Big Joe Williams follows in similar fashion as the opener, perhaps a beat or two slower paced, but this band knows how to listen to each other. Goldings and Ford shine; Ford takes his time and slowly ignites his solo with some smart jazz chords and subtle and tasty blues leads. Toussaint’s “Fair Child” moves more swiftly with very interesting stop-and-go syncopations. I enjoyed the use of Baxter’s trombone here; Ford’s vocals are quite convincing too. His guitar catches fire and he’s calculated well and chooses his spots well, especially when he plays off of Baxter.
“Oh, Virginia” (the only Ford-authored tune) is a pretty ballad that tells a lyrical story that’s romantic. It’s a pretty laid-back song that seduced my thoughts in a very soulful and natural way. “Slick Capers Blues,” by the somewhat obscure Charlie Doyle, is a fun blues tune that’s executed smoothly. Again Baxter’s bone shines, trading leads with Ford; Goldings’ B3 adds all the right accents as the rhythm section holds it all down. Appropriately credited, the traditional “On That Morning” is arranged (not written) by Ford and it’s a jazzy Wes Montgomery-styled instrumental. Goldings’ solo is haunting and eventually Ford breaks out of his Wes interpretations and softly introduces his jazzy-blues guitar playing, especially on his all-too-short fade. Ann Kerry Ford’s (Robben’s wife) and Michael McDonald’s ballad “Travelers Waltz” serves well for Ford’s maturing vocals. You’ll find his guitar solo is so tender and sweet here. How about Dylan’s “Mostly Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine”? It is given a more modern twist and it works. All three soloists excel on this buoyant cover. Then it’s back to the Big Easy with Earl King’s bubbly “Trick Bag.” Ford’s razor sharp with his guitar licks and vocals too. Goldings leans in but it’s all Ford’s show. The curtain comes down with “Fool’s Paradise” that, as expected, is a late-night, smoke-filled gem that closes this recording in a tender yet sophisticated mood.
Those looking for a hot-guitar Robben Ford album might be disappointed, but I found this disc to be a refreshing departure for Ford who has matured as an artist an especially as a vocalist. So be patient (its title, “Bringing It Back Home,” is quite revealing,) and give this one some time to breath as I suspect this recording will age gracefully. And for those guitar-god lovers, know there’s still plenty of tasty ear-candy coming from the magical fretboard of this evolving artist; Mr. Robben Ford.
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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