Tuesday, February 2, 2010
T-Model Ford - You Better Keep Still 1998
James "T-Model" Ford is the stereotypical old bluesman from rural Mississippi. However, he records for Blues/indie-rock label, Fat Possum out of Oxford, Mississippi. Ford's first album, _Pee Wee Get My Gun_, was "primitive" or lo-fi, up-beat, and had a peculiar emphasis on violence. _You Better_ doesn't live up to the quality or the intensity of the first. The album highlights Ford's idiosyncratic personality with songs like "These Eyes," in which Ford imitates a girlfriend's voice. A pretty good version of "Catfish Blues" also appears on the album as "The Old Number." An interesting blues remix also turns up on the album. "Pop Pop Pop" is in the same vein as the material on fellow Fat Possum artist, R. L. Burnside's Come On In. Overall, I believe, this album suffers from underproduction. A lot of the material sounds like a first take. T-Model Ford can play good music, but some rehearsal and refinement wouldn't hurt the quality of the music.
A menacing set of old school blues. The drumbeat on "If I Had Wings (Part 1)" sounds like a stapler being pounded on a desktop. Or a skull. "(Part 2)," which ends the record, is a more straightforward, acoustic lament, except the slurred vocal sounds like "if Ah had Wang!"
The remix of "Pop Pop Pop" (and I've not heard any original mix) begins with a heavy, sampled beat, then sets T-Model loose in a flurry of guitar noise, funky keyboard blips, and ungodly howls. "I'll play drums, you play your guitar!" shouts Mr. Ford. To freakin' Trent Reznor, I presume.
T Model Ford's YOU BETTER KEEP STILL is an even more stripped-down proceeding than its predecessor, PEE WEE GET MY GUN, as the keyboards and second guitar of the earlier record are often jettisoned the in favor of stark solo blues. In addition, Ford's voice and guitar are often accompanied only by the simple, low-key drums of his bandmate Spam.
The remix of this album's "Here Comes Papa" fleshes out the sound a bit, into something akin to R.L. Burnside's recordings with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but the most effective songs here are the simplest. There's the two-part "If I Had Wings," which brackets the album, as well as the rollicking "Catfish," which sounds not at all unlike some of Son House's Library of Congress recordings. Despite the tongue-in-cheek nicknames of the bandmembers, YOU BETTER KEEP STILL is dead-serious blues.CMJ (2/15/99, pp.24-25) - "...a stripped down affair, with the singer/guitarist's first person yowlings of woe and women backed only by a few chords and/or the unsteady, all-feel beats of drummer Spam..."
From CD Universe.
It's tough to look bad-ass when you're 77 years old, but check out the sneer on T-Model Ford's face on the cover of You Better Keep Still. The black hat-sporting ex-con from Mississippi didn't get serious about music until he was in his late sixties and he still doesn't take anything seriously as he improvises his way through many of these songs. Musically, he keeps everything as simple and spare as can be; no solos, just jagged guitar riffs set to his partner Spam's primitively unadorned drumming. The record begins with T-Model banging on a wooden box on "If I Had Wings, Pt. 1" and talking madness about trying to get a drink of water and being attacked by various reptiles and women he attempts to hit on. Then comes the extremely catchy guitar riff from "To the Left to the Right," a frenzied, juke-joint dance number. There's also the harsh, out of tune "Here Comes Papa" and the wacked and very funny "These Eyes." Though it's not really essential to the record, producer Jim Water's noisy remix of "Pop Pop Pop," based mostly on a riff from "Here Comes Papa," is groovy. But T-Model Ford is in no need of a club remix. He's got everything down perfect and the wild blues that flow naturally from him are as real and feisty as blues music gets.
By Adam Bregman, All Music Guide.
01. If I Had Wings (Part 1) 3:35
02. To the Left to the Right 3:16
03. Look What All You Got 4:24
04. Here Comes Papa 4:11
05. We Don't Understand 3:09
06. These Eyes 2:57
07. Pop Pop Pop (Remix) 4:27
08. The Old Number 4:56
09. Come Back Home 3:45
10. If I Had Wings (Part 2) 4:04