The Ford Brothers – Center Stage

Center Stage
Center Stage

The Ford Brothers are Robben on guitar and vocals, Patrick on drums, and Mark on harp and vocals. Robben, of course, has a solo career, but on occasion gets together with his brothers for special projects. This is a concert that shows in parts of the U.S. on PBS, on a program called “Sierra Center Stage.” For fans of Robben and blues guitar, it’s a treat.

Robben and the boys have always shown their appreciation for Paul Butterfield’s band, and have even recorded a tribute record. That legacy continues here. “Mellow Down Easy” kicks off the concert with band in full force. Bassist Dewayne Pate and drummer Patrick Ford lay a solid foundation that lets Robben and guitarist Volker Strifler fly over. Hearing the interplay on this cut, like much of the record, makes it hard to believe these guys don’t play together all the time.

Robben is as talented and prolific a player as there is today. And he doesn’t disappoint here. His solo on his original “Nothing to Nobody” is a perfect example. Scorching minor-key solo blues guitar changes over to very nice chordal work. He and the band take it out by quoting the jazz classic “Work Song.” His wah rhythms behind Volker on “Up From the Streets” are a mini-solo in themselves. The solo on “Lovin’ Cup” is wonderful, with an amazing feel for the blues and jazz, and his unique mix of the two. Add Strifler’s playing, and one tune with the fine Chris Cain on guitar, and you’ve got a player’s delight here.

Again, this is a PBS concert, but it’s not available in many parts of the country. The good news is a DVD will be released next year – a treat for Robben fans everywhere.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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