Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
Fender '58 Twin, Fender Combo Amp 1950's Tweed Twin with Demeter Rack Mount Spring Reverb, Roccaforte 100 Watt Amp Head through an 8 Ohm Open Back Roccaforte 2 x 12 cabinet, RMC Wah Wah Pedal, Wonderboy Overdrive, Guyatone Flip Tube Tremolo, Ibanez Analog Delay, Roccaforte Bastard Overdrive / Distortion pedal, Radial Engineering ToneBone / SwitchBone A-B Box, Ernie Ball Volume pedal
Marc Ford has built a career playing with some of the most talented and recognizable names in rock n' roll history. His grace and intensity with a guitar has repeatedly earned him the opportunity to share his gift with those who know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that music today has something more to offer- something that gets under your skin and infects your soul. Something that's as old as dirt and won't be changed because it can't be improved upon- like a barbed wire fence, or an old worn saddle, or a song that sticks in your throat for years until it's changed the sound of your voice. Marc has spent what could be a career for so many other musicians as the lead guitarist of the Black Crowes, but for him that's not enough. He's patiently seen the fruits of his labors ripen over the last few years into the music he's always wanted to make. Now, he has his own band, his own sound, and a new album that's as honest and uncompromising as the man himself.
History: Ford's first notable band was Burning Tree, formed in the late 80's with Mark Dutton and Doni Grey. They released one self-titled album in 1990 on Epic records, eventually garnering them the opportunity to open for the Black Crowes in support of their first album, Shake Your Money Maker. Ford and Crowes' frontman Chris Robinson quickly became friends and Marc was asked to join the band soon after. It wasn't long before Ford proved to be the missing piece of the Crowes' musical puzzle, announcing his undeniable presence with solo after blistering solo on what most fans and critics hail as the Crowes finest years, 92-97. They released 3 albums together, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, Amorica, and Three Snakes and One Charm. It was at the beginning of this period that their live performances began to set themselves apart from other bands of that time. They began building a loyal fanbase that followed the band from city to city, anxious to hear the Crowes push themselves even further in their experimentation. Ford played a formidable role in this growth, his patented soulful licks and penchant for improvising allowing the band to stretch out and injamlh night after night, ultimately landing them an invitation to headline the Furthur Festival in 1997.
Inevitably, visions and vices began to polarize within the band and Ford left the Crowes after the Furthur tour to pursue other projects, first touring with guitarist Chris Stills on the 1998 Hordefest tour. Marc next teamed up with Luther Russell to form Federale. After a short stint on the road with Gov't Mule, Federale was signed to Interscope Records. Unfortunately, due to label restructuring, Federale somehow slipped through the cracks and decided to disband in late 1999. Never one to remain idle, Ford was quickly recruited to front the highly successful supergroup jamband Blue Floyd. Joined by the monster talents of the late Allen Woody, Matt Abts, Johnny Neel, and Berry Oakley, Jr., Blue Floyd was formed around the premise of re-interpreting and elaborating on the Pink Floyd catalog. Their inventive blues-rock psychedelia produced shows well over 3 hours long and hypnotized crowds with their magical jams and improvisational energy. Still, Ford knew there were other untapped musical avenues he wanted to explore, and after the fall of 2001, he left Blue Floyd to dedicate his entire focus to his solo material. Drawing from a well of songs that he had been working on as far back as his Crowes days, Ford began putting together what would eventually become his truest vision yet, the rich but organic sound of It's About Time. And it is, it surely is...
Friends: The list of friends and musicians Marc frequently joins on stage or in the studio could practically fill a small theater by themselves. His work with Gov't Mule has been well-documented, most notably on the legendary Live...With A Little Help From Our Friends release, recorded on New Year's Eve in Atlanta. Marc can be found sitting in with the Allman Brothers Band from time to time, or with ex-Crowes bandmate Chris Robinson as well. Craig Ross, guitarist for Lenny Kravitz, is an old friend that not only drops in to play gigs, but also guests on Marc's new album. Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, Ben Harper, Berry Oakley, Jr., and Chris Stills are also featured guests. Jimmy Page, Derek Trucks, Johnny Neel, Jimmy Herring, and Dickey Betts are only a few of the musicians Marc has played with in his career. (See disc on reverse side).
It's About Time: Marc's first solo album is fifteen original compositions of raw, unreserved emotion, something that Ford has historically (or perhaps notoriously) cast like a spell from his guitar at the front of the stage. For the most part, however, Ford is content to flex his muscles underneath his shirt on this album. The emphasis here is on the songs themselves, and as always, Marc won't be hurried, his skill as a musician resembling that of an architect, crafting and building something timeless as he goes.
It's About Time finds Ford honest and reflective in his writing, revealing a need to unload the musical burden it seems he's been carrying for years. At times, the emotion captured by Ford in his music embraces you with the warmth of a lost, forlorn lover, other times with bitterness and betrayal as she
slowly turns the knife in your back. The brutal force of 'Two Mules & a Rainbow' showcases the latter emotion beautifully. Featuring the powerhouse trio Gov't Mule, (and the last released studio recordings of the late Allen Woody), 'Two Mules' thunders and screams with an intensity resurrected from a land once owned by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Mule also appears on the bittersweet epic 'Just Let It Go' to close out the album.
Certainly one of the most infectious cuts on the album, 'Idle Time' hops a train on its way out of town, inviting its passengers to shake their hips to Ford's spirited boogie and driving guitar. Marc rattles down the track with reckless abandon, reminding us that if you're not moving you're just standing still, and the joyous release of 'Idle Time' is just ride music fans are looking for. 'When You Go' erases any questions of Ford's depth beyond his talents as a guitarist. His songwriting is sincere and humble, resonating like a chord struck with heartache and loss. Accented by the slightly country undertones of Ben Harper's lap steel, Ford's plaintive vocals are striking, and with the help of his wife Kirsten and the Jayhawks' Gary Louris, the resulting harmonies are rich and warm. 'Shining Again' is another ballad, reminiscent of Dylan, while 'Giving' probably should've been written by Gram Parsons years ago.
'A Change of Mind' sways and shimmies in the wind with a good dose of soul and a funky clavinet intro courtesy of Chris Joyner. Longtime friend Craig Ross lends a hand on guitar and with a soulful chorus of "a change of mi-iiind" behind Ford, it swings with a rhythm that leaves you wondering where music that makes you feel this good has gone. Even when Ford catches the blues it feels good. Again collaborating with Ross, 'Cry, Moan & Wail' is simply an acoustic gem unearthed on the first take between two friends and two guitars. If 'Idle Time' isn't the catchiest song on the album, 'Feels Like Doin' Time' or 'California' certainly must be. The barrelhouse boogie of 'Doin' Time' usually gets the same extended treatment live that 'Two Mules' or 'Just Let it Go' does, and the raucous slide-driven antics of 'California' finds Ford with the throttle wide open, hurtling down Highway 1 with a carload of passengers shakin' their bones in the backseat.
Feast or Famine: "The Fortune Teller saw your future, there was nobody else around. It's gonna take hell or highwater if you're ever gonna leave this town." Such is the sage advice issued forth from Marc Ford on his new album. Take it to heart because he means it. Ford's talents are well-documented in other people's music, but his hunger to leave those towns has created a feast for his ravenous fans and a famine that only Ford himself can satiate. The sum of his experiences and convictions read like a witches' brew that only someone with the depth and determination possessed by Ford could concoct. It's About Time is a child born of successes and failures, the satisfaction gleaned at one journey's end, and the joy discovered at the challenge of another. His songs resonate with stories as old as music itself... can you hear it? It's about time you did yourself a favor and listened.
-Ryan Moore (Music Editor - The Point Jackson, MS)