WBGO Radar

Robben Ford: "Into The Sun"

robben ford

Helluva resume …

Robben Ford has played guitar and recorded with Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Scott and the LA Express, Charlie Musselwhite, Charlie Haden, The Yellowjackets, Jimmy Witherspoon, George Harrison, John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Barbra Streisand, and KISS.

And that's the short list.

Robben Ford comes from California.  When he was 14, he started playing guitar, and at 18 he started a blues band with his brothers, The Charles Ford Blues Band — named for their father.  Soon they were backing blues harpist Charlie Musselwhite, and Robben was recording with blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon.

His breakthrough as a new star playing the guitar happened in the 70s when he joined saxophonist Tom Scott in the fusion band L.A. Express.  Jazz.  Rock.  They could play anything, and they did.  Touring with George Harrison.  Recording with Joni Mitchell — The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Miles of Aisles.  

Robben’s first album as a leader, The Inside Story, featured a band that became The Yellowjackets, and he’s been playing up front ever since.

His last album, A Day In Nashville, featured a band with organ and a trombonist.  “I liked the sound,” he said of the combo when he came on the WBGO Blues Hour. 

That’s the hallmark of Robben Ford. He plays what he hears — and what he hears is a criss-cross of all the sounds that he likes.

His new album, Into The Sun, strips the band down to a basic guitar/organ/bass/drums quartet, but on several tracks he welcomes friends  who, like Robben, don’t fall neatly into generic music boxes.  

ZZ Ward sings along on the dreamy “Breath of Me.”  Keb Mo sings and Robert Randolph plays lap steel on the gritty “Justified.”  Warren Haynes plays slide guitar on the frisky “High Heels and Throwing Things.”  Sonny Landreth plays         slide guitar on the country-fried “So Long 4 U.”  

Throughout the album Robben’s guitar resounds.  Ringing the melodies of his solos.  Slashing the chords of his grooves.

Is it blues?  Is it rock?  Is it funky?  Yes, it is Robben Ford.

Helluva guitarist. …

   - Michael Bourne, host of WBGO's Blues Hour and Singers Unlimited.

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