Tuesday, March 23, 2010
T-Model FORD - Bad Man 2002
What goes around comes around in the blues world. Although T-Model Ford is from Mississippi, not all of his influences are Mississippi Delta influences -- his dusky, moody electric blues also owe something to Chicago (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf), Detroit (John Lee Hooker), and Texas (Lightnin' Hopkins). Of course, Waters, Hooker, and Wolf were all born in Mississippi; they were Southern bluesmen who moved north, plugged in, and became identified with electric post-World War II Northern blues. But Hooker wasn't born in Detroit any more than Waters and Wolf were born in Chicago. So again, what goes around comes around in the blues world. Whether you describe Ford's approach as Northern or Southern -- and truth be told, it's a combination of the two -- Bad Man is a compelling slice of tough, gritty, genuinely lowdown blues. The things that make Ford so compelling are his soulfulness and his lack of slickness. The singer/guitarist doesn't clean things up; he just digs in, lets the emotion flow, and tells you exactly how he feels. As a result, tunes like "Black Nanny," "Ask Her for Water," and "Let the Church Roll On" have the sort of rawness and honesty that are missing from some of the slicker blues albums of the 21st century. Equally memorable is Ford's performance of Wolf's "Back Door Man"; although this Chicago blues standard has been recorded countless times, Ford manages to make the tune sound vital and alive rather than worn out and overdone. Bad Man (which is Ford's fourth Fat Possum outing) may not be the most innovative or groundbreaking release of 2002, but it certainly doesn't come across as contrived or formulaic either. And it's a disc that is easily recommended to anyone who likes his/her electric blues rugged, unpolished, and totally sincere.
By Alex Henderson.
According to the liner notes, Ford has been shot, stabbed and poisoned and his ankles bear the scars of chain gang shackles. As if that weren't enough, the self proclaimed boss of the blues announces at the beginning of the CD that he "ain't never been to school a day in [his] life and can't read or write". All that may be true, but one thing's for sure the man from Greenville, Mississippi certainly has the credentials to play the blues.
Lesser known perhaps than RL Burnside or the late Junior Kimbrough, he is every bit as interesting. Ford's style is unconventional and uncompromising and he plays blues using the old blues standard of three chords and the truth. Songs straight from the heart, raw, rough and ready to be heard.
T-Model Ford has been through the mill more than once, and at 80 is still working hard to get the dying message of the Mississippi Hill Country Blues out to those who will listen. With drummer Spam, James "T-Model" Ford plays an endless boogie reflecting the hardships of being shot, stabbed, poisoned, and working on a chain gang. "Bad Man" is a driving reflection of a man who won't quit, and his interpretation of the chaos around him. Featured with R.L. Burnside in the February 2002 Issue of the New Yorker, T-Model & Spam are currently touring on the Fat Possum Mississippi Juke Joint Caravan. With more stamina than most young artists today, his style is reflective of artists like Lightnin' Hopkins, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters; but is stripped-down and brutally honest. All the tracks are originals, produced live by Memphis legend Jim Dickinson. It's T-Model, his guitar, Spam and nothing else. T-Model doesn't complain here, it's just his way of saying that he learned the hard way. This album does not reflect a relic of the past, nor does it want sympathy; it's an interpretation of a bluesman that celebrates the will to keep going despite adversity of any kind.
By Brett Lemke.
Legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson has nailed the vibe of this octogenarian Delta bluesman's rag-tag club and juke-joint gigs. That's good for purists, but not necessarily for fans of Ford's previous Fat Possum albums. The foot-stomping irrationality and whimsical violence of earlier numbers like the barking "To the Left, To the Right" and "If I Had Wings" have been traded for Ford's dusty-throated Howlin' Wolf imitations ("Ask Her for Water" and "Backdoor Man"), low-key dynamics, and meandering tempos. The sole surprise is "The Duke," an instrumental with Dickinson providing moonshine-inspired barrelhouse piano. Strip away Ford's legitimate eccentricities, which the label's house production team has played up in the past, and he's merely a competent guitarist with a drummer-sidekick, Spam, who knows just two patterns. The roughly autobiographical title track does tap Ford's reserve of twisted energy a bit as it totters over a dizzy roadbed of drunken chords and slide licks while he groans about his lost gun. But too often, Ford sounds more tired than tough here.
By Ted Drozdowski. AMG.
T Model Ford- (Vocals, Guitar);
Jim Mize- (Guitar);
Jojo Herman- (Piano);
Robert Chaffe- (Organ);
Tate County Singers- (background Vocals).
01. Ask Her For Water 4:39
02. Everything's Gonna Be Alright 4:24
03. Yes, I'm Standing 4:40
04. Bad Man 3:32
05. Somebody's Knockin' 4:12
06. Let The Church Roll On 3:01
07. Black Nanny 4:41
08. Backdoor Man 3:18
09. The Duke 3:15
10. Sallie Mae 5:27