Back in 2013, guitarist Robben Ford released Bringing It Back Home. Fine as it was, the album was transitional in that it offered the first evidence of a late-career renaissance wherein he began focusing on his skills as a singer and songwriter in addition to his reputation as an inimitable axe-slinger. Ford has taken great pride in the fact that he has never released the same album twice. He's always mining, exploring sounds and genres with an unparalleled restlessness. 2014's A Day in Nashville was a soul-inflected blues set that was captured live in studio during a single day. On 2015's Into the Sun, Ford played Southern-fried soul, funky jazz, and modern blues. In all three cases, the songwriting and arranging was miles beyond anything he'd delivered previously; each was record deeper, wider, and better crafted than the last.
Enter Purple House, an album that deftly balances craft with flash. Ford's playing is better showcased here, albeit in more economical ways, but more than this, his singing and lyrics have actually risen to the level of his playing. The attention to sonic detail in these song forms are as remarkable as they are funky and grooving. The modern sonic palette he employs suits the material well. "Tangle with Ya" is a whomping, funky blues populated by a rumbling bassline, electric piano, soaring backing-vocal chorus, gated drums, and greasy horns that frame his punchy guitar playing and celebratory singing. "What I Haven't Done" kicks off with a NOLA-esque second-line snare bump and a bassline that resembles a brass band's tuba. The horns jump into Ford's slippery 12-bar guitar vamp. His singing is clean and deep and his solo bites and growls with flashy licks and fills. The reverb-drenched "Empty Handed" is experimental with its meld of layered acoustic and electric guitars, analog synths, sound effects, and dreamy architecture, while "Bound for Glory" weds gospel and gritty Memphis style rock & roll to polished R&B. "Break in the Chain" is an acoustically-driven, midtempo Southern rocker sung in duet with Shemekia Copeland that careens off into eclectic, modern rock. "Wild Honey" is a breezy, cheery ballad with an irresistible pop hook showcasing Ford's finest singing on the record. "Cotton Candy" and "Somebody's Fool" are scorching blues rockers. The former is buoyed by a syncopated horn chart while the latter, a strutting guitar blaster, enlists Travis McCready of Bishop Gunn on vocals. Closer "Willing to Wait" finds Ford pairing with guitarist Drew Smithers (also in Bishop Gunn) in a sonically expansive, multi-layered psychedelic rocker. Purple House is quite sophisticated but utterly enjoyable. The balance between its canny production, well-written songs, killer playing, and honest, emotional singing is downright inspiring. ~ Thom Jurek
Artist Robben Ford
Release Date 02.11.2018
Product type CD
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