Robben Ford: A Day In Nashville

As studio recordings go, A Day in Nashville qualifies as a drive-by: one session, nine songs, no over-thinking, no needless tinkering. Judging from the results, guitarist Robben Ford and his band should make haste more often.

Apparently, after the veteran guitarist ditched plans for a European tour album, he decided to record his band at Nashville’s Sound Kitchen-live and with a minimum of fuss. Had Ford chosen to do a concert recording, no doubt the set list would have been peppered with songs he’s previously recorded. But thanks to the change of venue, he was able to skirt audience expectations and focus instead on a batch of recently penned original tunes and a pair of standout covers, one associated with Maceo Merriweather (“Poor Kelly Blues”), the other with James Cotton (“Cut You Loose”). No one familiar with Ford’s virtuosity will be startled by the remarkable finesse he displays here or by the album’s primary Southern blues/soul/funk thrust. What is surprising is the colorful assortment of well-crafted tunes, including the Chicago-inspired excursion “Midnight Comes Too Soon,” which adds to the album’s depth and appeal.

As for Ford’s solid but unremarkable vocals, now and then listeners may feel, to borrow a line from comedian Kevin Nealon, “whelmed but not overly.” Compensations abound, though, and not all derive from Ford’s soulful yet harmonically sophisticated fretwork. His bandmates-guitarist Audley Freed, bassist Brian Allen, drummer Wes Little, trombonist Barry Green and, in particular, keyboardist Ricky Peterson-consistently see to that.