It's been almost two years since the release of Supernatural, Robben's fifth for the Blue Thumb/Stretch label, and although a new CD can't be far off, I felt that Supernatural should not be overlooked as it represents a significant change in artistic direction, and very likely could be his best work to date. Supported by a superb group of musicians Robben ventures into new and fertile ground exploring the gentle and soothing sounds of a full accompaniment of strings, and horns. These excellent arrangements by Roger Kellaway (strings), and Lee Thornburg, David Woodford (horns) provide a breadth of sound that is delicately augmented by Robben's guitar mastery.
The CD begins however, with the first four songs sounding very much like vintage Robben Ford including the title track "Supernatural" written by Kevin Sandbloom (one of only two songs not penned by Robben), and two songs co-written with Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers), including "Nothing to Nobody" which asks the question, what would life be like being responsible only for oneself? The middle tracks on the CD suggest the company of a soul mate, and a glass of wine by the fire, for the soft and smooth "Don't Lose Your Faith in Me" served with that delightful new sound. If you were a fan of The Blue Line, the band that Robben has not used on his last two recordings, don't despair, it has not reduced his capacity to "cook on high" turn up "When I Cry Today", before relaxing to the six minute rendition of "You Got Me Knockin'". The final song on this CD is smoking version of Paul Butterfield's "Lovin' Cup."
I must admit the first time I gave Supernatural a spin I was a little surprised, having expected a return to harder edge of the Jazz/Blues-Funk sound of "The Blue Line", but once again I'm reminded of the artists' need to grow and stretch creative boundaries, a lesson I enjoy repeating. This is an exceptional effort by Robben Ford give it a spin.
After a four night stand at Catalina's in L.A. Robben will set out on a South American tour for the month of March, then on to Europe for most of April, and early May. His new CD is expected to be released on Blue Thumb/Stretch sometime between late May and early June 2001.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Michael Evan, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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