Robben Ford Bringing it back home’ (Provogue) 4/5

Blues guitar maestro Robben Ford is one of the hottest in-demand musicians and his CV reads like a who’s who of musical greats. In his early twenties he found himself a niche as a session musician on Joni Mitchell’s ‘The hissing of summer lawns’ while by the mid-1980s even the great Miles was calling upon his services to accompany him on a worldwide tour. However, Ford’s talents are not limited to sideman duties and he has quietly forged a career as a leader, both singing and playing some of the trademark dynamite blues licks. For this latest project, which covers a variety of blues styles, he is unsurprisingly surrounded by some cream of the crop musicians including jazzer Larry Goldings on hammond organ. A New Orleans flavour permeates the classic Lee Dorsey song ‘Everything I do gonna be funky’ and it is a great way to open proceedings on such a positive vibe. Lou Donaldson memorably covered the tune as an instrumental for Blue Note back in the 1960s. In a more laid back vein, vocals and guitar meet in unison on ‘Birds nest bound’ with an extended guitar solo over some tasty hammond comping. There is even a passing nod to Robben Ford’s jazz idols on the instrumental ‘On that morning’ which takes a definite leaf out of the Wes Montgomery guitar book and Ford is ideally placed to straddle blues and jazz genres without ever sounding out of place. A soul-blues ballad ‘Oh, Virginia’ rounds off the album with panache and Ford impresses here with his versatility to both sing and play tenderly. Finally, the moody old-school blues ‘Slick Capers’ affords guest trombonist Steve Baxter the opportunity to shine. A fine sounding album that showcases the leader’s eclecticism and virtuosity in equal measure. Live UK dates will follow in late April at selected venues.

Tim Stenhouse