T-Model Ford

T-Model Ford
Jack Daniel Time!

Mudpuppy Recordings

By Georgetown Fats
February 2010

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The message boards have all been abuzz. With the help of deep blues enthusiasts, the Boston Blues Society will be presenting James Lewis “T-Model” Ford live at PA's Lounge in Somerville's Union Square on Thursday, Feb 25. Fill up the hip flasks and, parents, hide your daughters; it is going to be Jack Daniel Time!

Ford's seventh album Jack Daniel Time! is the first release for Mudpuppy Recordings, a boutique label “dedicated to roots music preservation, starting with Delta Blues”. It was produced by Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, Inc. and recorded, mixed and engineered by Bill Abel of Big Toe Porta-studio, the team which also won a slew of awards for the documentary M is for Mississippi.

Instead of stealing the show as he did in the film, Ford proves more than capable of being the center of attention for this release. On side A, “The Boss of Nelson Street”, Ford opens up with an acoustic piece called “I Love You, Babe”. Pushing 90 years old, Ford’s guitar chops may not be up to the levels of the greats in Delta Blues, but his road-worn voice and charisma are captivating.

On a piece titled “Jack Daniel Time!”, accompanied by Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean and Lee Williams on drums, Ford sings verses most notably associated with “Got My Mojo Working” over a loose juke shuffle. The side closes out with “That’s Alright Mama”. It, too, is a solo acoustic piece, with Ford singing the old standard over a fingerpicked, droning guitar line. Stripping the overplayed cover song down to its most rudimentary form, T-Model breaths incredible life back into the tune.

Side B, “Taildragger”, standards “High-Heel Sneakers” and “Killing Floor” are given the juke joint treatment, while Ford also delivers a few of his own pieces. The main guitar riff to Ford’s original “Got a Woman” is reminiscent of “.44 Blues”. Ford’s age and musical history make the delivery raw, real and unfiltered. “Mistreatin’ Woman” features the Taildragger picking away at his acoustic, and vamping music in whatever direction the muse takes him. Clocking in at just under five-and-a-half minutes on the disc, it is not hard to imagine Mr. Ford singing dozens of songs over this riff, playing just as long as his flask held out.

In the liner notes Ford declares, “I got a heap of them old songs”. Given the life he has lived and his natural storytelling abilities, it is clearly not a boast. It is a declaration of fact.

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