Watching Robben Ford take the stage is equal parts gratifying, awe-inspiring, and challenging—a perfect storm of creativity and emotion that results in some seriously good music. As soon as he plays his first note, you realize that you’re in the presence of a bonafide guitar master. With five Grammy nominations, a three-decade-long solo career, and a resume that includes Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, and George Harrison, his accomplishments reflect the versatility and musicality of someone who has pursued their true calling. During a live performance, Robben is acutely tuned in, feeding off of the energy of the audience, and fully prepared to throw you a curve ball at any moment. In other words, it’s an experience not to be missed.
The same could be said for his new record, Purple House (2018). This remarkable collection of songs features Ford’s enlightened approach to composition and improvisation. Exploring the range of the studio with a fresh approach to production, he weaves in and out of surprising musical moments, ear-wormy hooks, and thoughtful lyrical themes. His sophisticated approach to the blues is evident throughout, yet the record is far more diverse regarding song structure and style. “I was inspired to go past what would certainly happen on a traditional blues or R&B album, take more chances sonically, and open it up without loosing the essence of soulfulness or live performance.”
The record is thematically current and representative of the musical melting pot that is his new home, Nashville, TN. “I wanted it to sound like my current working band—two guitars, bass, and drums—so that I could take it on the road.” Alongside Ford’s incomparable guitar work, Purple Housefeatures co-producer Casey Wasner (guitar), Ryan Madora (bass), and Derrek Phillips (drums). “I invited Casey to co-produce the record after working with him on an EP with the same instrumentation. Casey is a jack-of-all-trades—he has played drums for Keb Mo’, engineered on the Grammy-winning TajMo record, and produced projects on his own. He has a great facility just outside of Nashville; it was a place where we could really take our time and dig deep.”
With a greater emphasis on production, Ford elected to explore new sonic possibilities with Purple House. “This record is super unique for me and my fans, guitar heads in particular, in that I did not use my signature Dumble Overdrive Special Amplifier. Oddly enough, the Dumble took up too much space in the sonic spectrum and we wound up moving toward smaller amplifiers—a new reissue of a Fender Vibrolux Reverb and an early 60’s Pro Reverb. That was a big shift for me and it was all part of exercising the possibilities on the production side.”
Musically diverse and remarkably captivating, Purple Houseserves to be an exciting new chapter of the exceptional discography by Robben Ford.