A diverse musician like guitar wizard Robben Ford is capable of competently cranking out just about any kind of record he wants to. Whether it's rock, blues, jazz, r&b, or folk, Ford's done it all, whether he's playing on his own records, or for the likes of Joni Mitchell, George Harrison or Miles Davis. We touched on Robben's wide ranging talent last November when highlighting an old Paul Butterfield song he covered at the end of 1999's Supernatural.
This week, Robben releases a set of songs that touch mostly on blues, but also on rock and R&B. And like Supernatural, it's a platform for his expanding songwriting skills. Truth, as he named it, seeks to speak to everyday concerns most of us face in the early 21st century, a sort of modern-day blues record. Ford himself clarifies the overriding theme of Truth when he plainly states "I love playing, but I want my music to be about something. It's the context - the song that gives the playing purpose."
That purpose is encapsulated and put forth right from the get-go in the opening "Lateral Climb," a no-nonsense 12 bar blues about the seeming futility in trying to get ahead in life. From trying to beat the traffic, to diminishing real incomes, to getting bogged down in war, Ford states his concerns in an everyday, non-preachy way. His anxiousness about the wars overseas, as well as violence domestically, are relayed again on the low-key soulful number "Peace On My Mind."
More often than not, though, his blues are on a more personal level. Take for instance, the sassy "You're Gonna Need A Friend," the hard-rocking "Too Much" or the moody, Santana-style blues of "Moonchild Blues."
Ford also throws in a couple of well-chosen covers amidst this mostly self-penned set of songs. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is an old Otis Redding B-sider given a funky, horn driven reading by Robben. Paul Simon's "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor" is a down-home folksy performance that features blues queen Susan Tedeschi her share of the lead vocals. Damn, I've forgotten how well that woman can sing!