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Robben Ford & The Blue Line – Robben Ford & The Blue Line

This isn’t an On Spec purchase, because I know Robben Ford’s work. I can keep this one concise, though:

There’s no doubting the talent on display on this 1992 release. All the elements are there, the blues explorations are interesting and technically great, and the covers of John Hiatt’s I’m A Real Man and Willie Dixon’s My Love Will Never Die are well-chosen. The band is ace, backing him up with the prowess of a collection of top-notch soloists jamming together. One thing that guitar players always drone on about is tone, and you can’t question that there’s a tone here, tasteful and bluesy. The guitar solos are brilliant, and the vocals are right where they need to be. I would recommend everyone hear this album.

But. This is more Robert Cray than it is Stevie Ray Vaughan. It’s very clean, pristine even, perfectly recorded and at full production values. It is soulful, and it hits all the right notes in all the right places… but it sounded to me a bit too much like a band who have learned all of the licks and moves by rote, playing it all to perfection… and yet to fully please me it needs to be dirty. It needs an edge, it needs to be worldly, it needs that harrowing feeling of despair that the best blues offers. I just didn’t quite feel that with this (otherwise) damn near perfect album. This is safe blues, for concert halls. This ain’t drunken knife fight in a roadhouse blues.

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