Blues Bytes


August 2020

Robben Ford
Talk To Your Daughter
Warner Brothers

Robben Ford

As a blues novice in the late ’80s I knew I loved the music, but sometimes it was hard for me to track down just what I was looking for. A lot of the major record labels weren’t exactly teeming with albums (though I had recently discovered much of Chess Records’ catalog, thanks to MCA) and I had not yet really stumbled onto the great independent labels that ended up making most of my collection (Rounder, Black Top, Delmark, Earwig, etc.).

One of my friends who also liked the blues told me about Talk To Your Daughter, from Robben Ford. It was actually on a major label (Warner Brothers) so it was relatively easy to track down. At the time I was unfamiliar with Ford, but later discovered that he had a long musical and personal friendship with singer Jimmy Witherspoon who I was familiar with via his Chess recordings. Ford was also in a blues band with his brother as well as being the guitarist for the jazz fusion band, The Yellowjackets, who I had also heard of via my friend. He also played with Miles Davis and actually left Davis’ band to record Talk To Your Daughter.

I was not familiar with a lot of the songs on Talk To Your Daughter, even though about half of them were covers of blues classics, so this was my first exposure to many of them. The title track is taken at a bit of a less urgent pace from J.B. Lenoir’s original. Ford’s vocal is different, not as urgent but still pleading for what he wants (albeit more politely), and his guitar work is just superb. “Help The Poor,” one of B.B. King’s standards (written by Charlie Singleton), is probably one of my favorite songs via Ford’s version, as much for his warm, vulnerable vocal as his exquisite fretwork, the epitome of crisp, concise soloing.

Ford’s version of Duke Ellington’s “Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues” (also performed by Mose Allison) blends blues and jazz in the guitar playing with a nice vocal turn as well, and the Albert King favorite, “Born Under A Bad Sign,” gets a powerful treatment with Ford's excellent guitar. He also effectively covers Little Walter with “Wild About You (Can’t Hold Out Much Longer)” and Ike Turner on “I Got Over It”, and brings a couple of originals (“Getaway,” “Can’t Let Her Go”) to the table. The instrumental “Revelation” was written by Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrante, who also contributes keyboards on this album. Ford’s soloing on this track is a revelation in itself.

Ford and Ferrante are joined by bassist Roscoe Beck and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Beck continued to play with Ford as part of The Blue Line for a number of years following this release. They provide excellent support on this album, which received a lot of attention in the late ’80s. One of the selling points to me at the time was that it didn’t seem to be overproduced compared to a majority of recordings in the ’80s, as the songs had a real “live in the studio” feel. Listening to it now, it still has that feeling, though some, not all, of the keyboards are still firmly entrenched in the ’80s. Ford’s voice is probably a better fit for pop than the blues, but that was probably one of the reasons the album reached across the aisles beyond the blues to jazz and even pop fans.

Robben Ford has continued his diverse and prolific recording career to the present day, venturing into jazz, rock, and the blues. He’s still one of the most distinctive and accessible guitarists on stage or in studio. Blues fans unfamiliar with his work are encouraged to start with Talk To Your Daughter, but there’s much more great music in his catalog to be heard in a variety of genres.

--- Graham Clarke




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