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Black Crow flies in for the Summertyne blues

Former Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford will showcase his reinvention at the upcoming Summertyne festival at Sage Gateshead

Jessie Lee Cederblom Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford will play the Summertyne Festival at Sage Gateshead in July
Former Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford will play at the Summertyne festival 2014 at Sage Gateshead

We all love to hear emerging artists and discover fresh talent. But sometimes there’s even more of a thrill in hearing an established performer, with a great track record, do something really unexpected and create a new career landmark.

That’s where Marc Ford comes in. The former Black Crow, aka one of the most celebrated and in-demand rock guitarists of his time, has switched gears to deliver what might just be one of the finest Americana albums of 2014.

Good work on the bookers for the upcoming Summertyne Festival then, to have inked him in for a support slot in Hall One on Saturday July 19. He’ll be warming things up for the crowd ahead of The Jayhawks.

But back to the long player in question.

The fabled former lead guitarist with the Black Crowes has been the leader of his own bands, a session player of choice with Govt. Mule, Ben Harper and many others, and producer of acclaimed acts from Ryan Bingham to Bristol country soul band, Phantom Limb.

But Holy Ghost - the title of the album - will undoubtedly delight a legion of admirers who never knew he could embrace the wide open spaces of American roots music to such memorable effect.

“I waited for a while until the timing was right for this,” he says.

“I knew I wasn’t supposed to act on these songs for a while, so I kind of sat on them as a batch together. Most of them are brand new, but a couple are 15 years old. I just needed to drop out for a little bit and get home back together. I had a daughter, so this is the first time I got to be at home for the first five years.”

Now living the quieter life in the Californian surf town of San Clemente, Marc says: “One day it just dawned on me, wait a minute, Phantom Limb is the perfect band for this.

“I said ‘Stew, you allowed me to pull your baby apart and put it back together. I’ve never had a producer produce my own stuff. How about payback? You can do me now. I think I have some of the best songs I’ve ever written, and you’ve got a bitchin’ band.’ He just said ‘Get here.’”

And the result?

“It’s hopeful, in a dark way sometimes,” he says. “ “It’s a reflection of my life,” he says. “I pulled out of gigging and travelling and literally kind of stopped.

“It was like, ‘I’ve got to regroup here, be at home and keep relationships good.’ Otherwise, if you keep running and running, even though it’s work, something has to suffer. So the holy grail now is to find how you keep a family and a musical career together.

“We moved to San Clemente, which is a little surf town, and the pace here is slower. It really is a small town feeling, a lot of acoustic guitar playing. I think all that reflects in the record.”

Thankfully though, the quieter life doesn’t mean he’s against travelling.

* Marc Ford plays Hall One on Saturday July 19 as support for The Jayhawks. The gig is part of the Summertyne Festival at Sage Gateshead. For more informaiton on the programme, click here.

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