CD review: T-Model Ford's 'The Ladies Man'

T-Model Ford hasn't lost touch with the blues.
T-Model Ford hasn't lost touch with the blues. (Peter Lee)
Friday, February 26, 2010


"The Ladies Man"

Kindred spirits: R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Robert Johnson

Show: With the Shirks on Saturday at the Velvet Lounge. Show starts at 10 p.m. 202-462-3213.

T-Model Ford is a Mississippi bluesman who's just a few years younger than the genre's most celebrated forefathers. His latest album, "The Ladies Man," is a spare but rollicking all-acoustic set captured live in the studio, just the way the iconic Robert Johnson recorded in the 1930s.

James Lewis Carter Ford was born in the early 1920s -- he doesn't know exactly when -- and was a teenager when Johnson died young in 1938. But Ford didn't start performing until he was in his 50s and finally recorded his debut album at about age 75. More than a decade later, the singer-guitarist retains such vigor that his big-talking style never seems forced.

More eccentric than innovative, Ford revisits riffs and motifs well-known in both Delta and Chicago blues. But he has an advantage over '30s performers, who were limited by the three-minute running time of 78-rpm records. Ford stretches out, driving such tunes as "Chicken Head Man" and "Hip Shaking Woman" past the six-minute mark. The guitarist slips, lurches and churns until the groove becomes hypnotic. T-Model Ford may not be an originator, but when he bends a song like taffy, he twists it into a shape that is his alone.

-- Mark Jenkins

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