Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rugged Road stays off beaten path

Rugged Road

Quick- name Robben Ford’s biggest hit. All right, unfair question unless you’re a guitar freak who has followed Ford’s trailblazing career through the band L.A. Express or collaborations with Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell (and Kiss!), or his own sophisticated blues albums.

Which makes Ford an unlikely source of material for band playing the local circuit. But that’s how Rugged Road started out six years ago. Guitarist Mike Young loved Ford’s melodies and phrasings and pulled together a band to air Ford's jazzy blues in area clubs and bars. Eventually Rugged Road broadened its repertoire, but still prefers to sidestep the norm.

“I’m always looking for the ‘other hits’ of the ’70s,” Young says. “We’ll do Steve Miller songs, but not ‘Fly Like an Eagle.’ We’ll do ‘True Fine Love.’ And if you like Steve Miller, you’ll know that song. With a lot of classic rock, people know the albums as well as the hits.”

Young says he keeps pen and pad nearby when listening to satellite radio stations that favor popular artists’ deeper cuts; hence with Rugged Road you’re going to get Steve Ray Vaughan’s “Tightrope” rather than “Pride and Joy”

“‘Tightrope’ is hard, but we have a lead guitar player who can pull it off,” Young says.

That would be Mike Jiencke joining Young on guitars. Rugged Road also includes keyboard player Rick Ottman, bassist Paul Morrell, and drummer Herdi Xha.

The band played after last season’s Great Race and is coming back Friday for a show in the Coppertop starting at 8 p.m.

Ford’s stamp on Rugged Road goes beyond supplying choice tunes; Rugged Road will also cover songs that Ford has covered.

“He did a great arrangement of ‘Peace Love and Understanding.’ Most people know the Elvis Costello version, but we’ll play Robben’s,” Young says.

Of course they will.

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