Robben Ford
" Soul on Ten "
Concord Records

Blueswax 6
Rating 6

Where's the Soul?, (10/21/09)

Ever since the first time I heard Robben Ford on Tom Scott's "Tom Cat" I always felt that his guitar playing was highly charged and extremely creative. So it stands to reason why he's been on sessions with performers as diverse as Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Larry Carlton, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and countless others. Needless to say, it's been a spectacular ride for the well respected Ford who in his later years has settled his craft more towards Blues. Which leads us to Ford's latest Concord release Soul On Ten which is comprised of eight live tunes, and two studio tracks. For the live portion Neal Evans (of Soulive fame) is the B-3 player, Toss Panos drums, and Larry Carlton's son Travis holds it down on bass. An almost eight-minute version of "Supernatural" kicks off the album in an odd funk where lots of wah-wah work is evident but this tune just kind of meanders all over the place, ending in a spacey loose jam that just fades into the abyss.

Things crank up on the cruising instrumental "Indianola" which is probably one of the better selections, especially take notes on Travis Carlton's driving bass lines, and Ford's intensity. Next up is the quirky "There'll Never Be Another You" which also wanders itself into a trippy eight-minute-plus jam that's not all that tasty or captivating. Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" works better and is rearranged to fit Robben's eclectic playing, and it is here we finally get a taste of Neal Evans' talented B-3 work where Ford's playing is much more centered and grounded. The funky "Nothin' To Nobody" was co-authored by Ford and Michael MacDonald also allows the band to coagulate. Once again, checkout Travis Carlton's fine bass work and tasteful solo. Finally, it's blues time with Elmore James' "Please Set a Date" that segues into Jimmy Reed's "You Don't Have To Go" which really fits well with Ford's explosive guitar thrashings. Ford's "Earthquake" is sort of a ballad that gets cerebral and groundless for almost eight minutes. The Gary Nicholson-Ford authored "How Deep In The Blues (Do You Want To Go)" closes the live segment of Soul On Ten and, while there are some exciting moments, this tune also aimlessly stumbles, so much so I am certain the crowd was expecting far more, yet Robben says goodnight to them.

Into the studio we go for two Ford penned tracks that employ the strong talents of Karl Denson on "Don't Worry About Me," and the great Larry Goldings on B-3 for "Thoughtless." Do these tracks matter? I don't think so, as I would have thought the encore or encores from the live set would have fit better, not that I was expecting any miracles.

Those expecting any new groundbreaking music from a talent of Ford's stature will be disappointed, and as Blues goes, there are only glimpses of that art form contained. Perhaps being at the live show would have worked better, but listening to this at home is mostly a letdown. What's really disappointing is that Robben told me that his next Concord disc would also feature Larry Carlton as a return favor for his work with Larry on Live in Tokyo, so what happened? Perhaps we all should wait for that one, as Soul On Ten is more like Soul? On Five or Six.

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at Bob maybe contacted at:

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