By James Calemine
The Neptune Blues Club counts as Marc Ford’s third solo CD. Of course, Ford’s musical collaborations include The Black Crowes, Ben Harper, Blue Floyd, Government Mule and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Recorded in L.A.’s Compound Studios, Ford assembled a group of seasoned L.A. musicians for this collection of blues songs.
Drummer Anthony Arvizu worked in L.A. for over 20 years. Pianist Mike Malone performed with Big Joe Turner, Mick Taylor and Joe Houston. Harmonica player Bill Barrett emerged as a killer musician on the L.A. music scene. Bassist John Bazz has played with Hubert Sumlin, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Lester Butler and Lee Allen. Percussionist Stephen Hodges’ resume includes working with Tom Waits, Gatemouth Brown and The Smashing Pumpkins.
Unlike his first two song-crafted CDs, It’s About Time and Weary And Wired, The Neptune Blues Club showcases Ford’s guitar brilliance. These songs are looser, more blues-based and will transfer well to a live audience. Ford shares vocal duties with Malone on these 12 tracks.
The opening song, “Don’t Get Me Killed” procures a mean sound best heard in some dank, smoke-ridden juke joint. Ford’s slide on this song demonstrates why pianist Johnny Neel said Ford “is an actual genius. He’s got the best guitar sound I’ve ever heard.” Ford sings on “Freedom Fighter” and plays incandescent guitar licks in a song that has meaning on various levels. “Go Too Soon” conjures an old-school rockabilly-Chuck Berry resonance in its short, concise structure.
“Holdin’ On” transfers a push and pull melody that allows the cohesive sound of the group of musicians to gel. “Last Time Around” evokes a Rolling Stones-type grit, and stands as one of this album’s centerpiece compositions. Ford’s guitar brilliance flashes throughout every song in this riff-o-rama. “Main Drain” contains a wicked guitar tone in this ghetto backstreet sonic landscape.
“Mother’s Day” counts as an emotive song that encapsulates the beauty and grace of every mother–dead or alive. “Pay For My Mistakes” serves as a fun, Friday night mood song, and the laid-back lazy slide work by Ford forces one to pay attention to every bright note. “Shame On Me” fits Ford’s vocal range perfectly in this barrelhouse ditty highlighted by Malone’s deft keyboard playing.
“Smilin’ Atcha”, another festive groove, is best heard after a few beers when the girls begin to dance under dim lights. The final song, “Spaceman”, emerges as one of Ford’s strongest tunes that contains a slow organic electric confluence of all these players’ strongest attributes. The Neptune Blues Club verifies Marc Ford ranks as one of the world’s greatest guitarists.
Read a definitive interview with Marc Ford in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2.