A Day in Nashville
The ingredients for a Robben Ford album have largely remained the same: sophisticated guitar licks, honest songwriting with a bluesy bent, and a robust, meaty tone. However, it’s that little extra bit of, well, Robben, which makes it work time and time again. His latest release, A Day in Nashville, proves yet again why guitar geeks flock to his shows and hang on his every note. Those notes might not be as plentiful as on his earlier records, but they hold more weight. His solo break on “Midnight Comes Too Soon” is as visceral and rootsy as anything he’s played in decades. At this point in his career, Ford could churn out another album full of the uptown blues that his fans will gladly eat up, but instead he chose to challenge himself and experiment with different textures while pushing both his songwriting and singing.
The sonic experimentation is most noticeable when trombonist Barry Green steps in. The big, round tone of the trombone seems to give the sextet a lift, while rhythm guitarist Audley Freed propels the group with his spot-on sense of groove and space. Ford’s tone doesn’t venture into much uncharted territory, but it covers a few subtle bases. On the funky “Top Down Blues,” Ford cops some Cropper-meets-Dupree riffs while the melody captures some of the essence of classic soul jazz.
One of the few downsides of the album is that Freed (who is currently in Sheryl Crow’s band) doesn’t get a chance to shine and push Ford. The two-guitar format isn’t something that Ford is found in too often (with the exception of some albums with Larry Carlton) and with a player like Freed onboard, this may have been a missed opportunity. The whole vibe of the album captures the live feel and urgency of an old-school session since, true to the album’s name; it was mostly recorded in one day in Nashville. This album is a prime example of the human element of music—real people, in a room, playing together.
Must-hear track: “Green Grass, Rainwater”