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The Ladies Man

T-Model Ford

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Album Review

On The Ladies Man, T-Model Ford comes off more than ever as a living testament to the sustaining power of the blues. Pushing 90 (though his exact age is a bone of contention), Ford had just experienced severe heart problems and had a pacemaker installed when he recorded the album, but to say he sounds full of life here would be an understatement. It doesn't hurt that Ford was recorded in the optimum manner to capture his real, raw Mississippi sound — he laid down these tracks live in the studio, accompanied with just the right amount of looseness by members of his frequent backup band GravelRoad and others, in one session, with no overdubs or second takes. Snatches of his conversations with the musicians are interspersed between some of the tracks, filling in the picture with even more vivid colors; he reminisces about being inspired to play by the music of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, enthusiastically shouts "It's Jack Daniels time!" (an album photo shows him happily hoisting a bottle of Jack), and instructs the band to "Let it all hang in, don't let it hang out." Playing tunes associated with Muddy Waters ("Two Trains") and Muddy's right-hand man Little Walter ("My Babe"), and revisiting quirky original tunes he has recorded in the past like opening cut "Chicken Head Man," Ford brings to bear his rough-and-ready vocal style and forceful acoustic fingerpicking with an intensity that suggests a performer a good few decades younger. Ford first came to fame during the ‘90s heyday of Fat Possum Records, alongside Mississippi hill country contemporaries like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, but at a time when many of his peers have died off and even Fat Possum has embraced rock over blues, Ford's first studio album for a new label shows him to be not just a survivor, but a solid rock supplying a living, breathing foundation for his brand of blues. ~ J. Allen, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Old school acoustic Southern blues

It’s hard to imagine a more fitting origin for a bluesman than not knowing your exact birthdate. To think you might have been born in 1920 or possibly 1922, and to have begun your commercial career as a bluesman in your early seventies, is to echo a hard life that included pre-teen plow work behind a mule, blue collar jobs in lumber and truck driving, and enough scrapes with the law (including a string on a chain gang) to lose count of the years. Ford isn’t a product of blues music so much as his delta blues is the product of a life that began in the deep, segregated south of Forest, Mississippi. Ford’s recording career began in the mid-1990s with a string of albums for Fat Possum. His songs are built on repetitive blues progressions and lyrics that often seem made up on the spot. Ford’s latest, on the Alive label, was recorded live-in-the-studio at the end of one of his infrequent tours. Ford plays acoustic guitar and sings, with some younger players following along quietly on guitar, harmonica and percussion. His picking is solid, but what’s especially impressive is his voice. There’s a weathered edge to his tone, but his pitch is surprisingly sharp. Not sharp for an 88-year-old (or so) man; just sharp. He reprises the originals “Chicken Head Man” and “Hip Shakin’ Woman,” and blues classics from Roosevelt Sykes (“44 Blues”), Willie Dixon (“My Babe”), and Jimmy Rogers (“That’s Alright”). The informal recording session, planned at the last minute and plotted on the fly, finds Ford edging into each song as the mood and memory strike him. Two interview tracks further flesh out the character of this one-of-a-kind bluesman. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Biography

Born: 1924 in Greenville, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist T-Model Ford (James Lewis Carter Ford) played a raw-edged, visceral style of blues from the Mississippi Delta, accompanied much of the time by his drummer, Spam (Tommy Lee Miles). Ford caught a break when he opened up on a national tour for Buddy Guy and his band, playing respectable theaters and some festivals, but he was chronically under-recorded. He began playing guitar late in life and hadn't really toured much outside the Mississippi Delta until the 1990s and...
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The Ladies Man, T-Model Ford
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