The ex-Black Crowes guitarist's first solo album in five years is far more wired than weary, which is certainly a good thing. Rejoining musicians from his pre-Crows years in the band Burning Tree (bassist Mark "Muddy" Dutton and drummer Doni Gray), Ford strips down to a basic trio format, although one loose enough to allow horns, keyboards, and background singers to flesh out the sound as needed. Ford generally discards the country that informed his first disc for a deceptively simple, bluesy rocking attack that growls and roars. The opening "Featherweight Dreamland" sounds like '70s-era Stones, just over three minutes of gnarly chords meshed with tough maracas and piano driving the trashy overdubbed guitars. The disc then shifts to a Southern rock-blues sensibility (the rugged "1000 Ways") combined with a substantial Neil Young influence. The latter is particularly noticeable on the eight-and-a-half minute "Smoke Signals," a thinly veiled rewrite of "Cowgirl in the Sand," right down to the loping bass and dramatically taut guitar solo. The following "Greazy Chicken" lays on the funk with horns and B-3 slathered over the slow-boil swampy instrumental and Ford's wah-wah pedal and slide in full flower. The similarly styled "The Big Callback" closes the disc. Things calm down for a few mid-album ballads, the David Crosby-ish "Currents" being the most notable. Ford rearranges Willie Dixon's "The Same Thing" into a lengthy, ominous showstopper, somewhat similar to the music his friends in Gov't Mule are known for. The diverse styles on the album are threaded together by Ford's meaty guitar lines, although less so by his rather ordinary vocals. Still, despite each track sounding similar to one of his influences, Ford acquits himself as a frills-free guitarist with more chops than imagination and a whole lotta passion. At over an hour, the disc runs a little long and some judicious editing would have made it a stronger listen, but there is enough quality material played with fire and enthusiasm to justify Ford stepping back into the spotlight. One hopes he doesn't wait another five years for the follow-up. ~ Hal Horowitz, Rovi

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