Ex-Crowes lead guitarist makes his own mark on impressive debut
Marc Ford will always be associated with The Black Crowes, whom he joined in late 1991 and remained until his departure in 1997 (he later rejoined the group in 2005/06). Yet apart from collaborations with Blue Floyd, Chris Stills and a couple of live albums with Gov’t Mule, Ford seemed to prefer a quiet life, after many years of constant touring and recording, becoming a devoted family man, wanting to just do his own thing for a while.
It’s About Time is an appropriate title in more ways than one. Not only was it Ford’s solo debut, but the album also consisted of all original material, some of which he had no doubt been sitting on for a number of years. For the first time, Ford could find expression through his own craft rather than through someone else’s.
From opening track “Hell Or Highwater,” with its Exile-era brass section and squealing slide guitar, to the lengthy Pink Floydish “Just Let Go,” which bookends the album, many of the songs on It’s About Time already seem familiar, like a well worn shoe that remains far more comfortable than that new pair you bought last week.
Helping him along the way are a few old friends, namely Craig Ross (guitar), Warren Haynes (guitar), Chris Stills (vocals), Allen Woody (bass), Matt Abts (drums), plus a host of others.
Now whether it’s The Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, or just southern blues-rock in general, Ford has a style all his own. Like Dickey Betts, or Eric Clapton, as soon as a song comes on, you know immediately who it is.
“A Change Of Mind,” “When You Go,” and “Giving” all come and go like a soft summer breeze, and make for perfect listening while sitting on the outside porch at night, preferably with a cold glass of beer. “Idle Time” is a definite highlight, reminiscent of early ‘70s Clapton/Allman Brothers, and could easily have been the b-side to The Black Crowes’ “Wiser Time.”
“Two Mules and a Rainbow” is one of the albums heaviest tunes, and a song more than a few have speculated upon as being written about his tenure with the Crowes, something which to this critic’s knowledge, Ford has never openly spoken about much less acknowledged.
The tender quiet blues of “Cry, Moan And Wail” affords the listener an intimacy rarely heard before, while the redemptive “Shining Again” and poignant “Elijah” (dedicated to his son), indicate Ford’s new-found sense of composure in contrast to his earlier, more hedonistic ways when as a younger man.
Whether it’s the blues-grunge of “Wake Up And Walk Away,” or the self-confessional “Darlin’ I’ve Been Dreamin’,” much of It’s About Time could be seen as a form of catharsis on Ford’s part, as if the guitarist always had a lot to say, but without the necessary means to express it (except through his guitar). Many of these songs are clearly imbued with the experience of someone who has paid his dues, done his time, and who obviously has no intention of re-offending.
Ford admits to his demons albeit in the most musically pleasant way possible, as he loosens his inner David Gilmour via the near-epic “Just Let Go,” the main riff of which bears a slight resemblance to “Breathe.” It is a fine way to end what is truly a very fine LP indeed.
It’s About Time could have been recorded over forty years ago, and as such would have fit nicely alongside many of the albums of the day. Ford’s debut has a timeless quality to it, one beyond trends or fashion. People will still likely be listening to it for many decades ahead.