C. J. Walsh
T Model Ford, Cafe 9 New Haven 2010
Published: 2010/03/23 Relix online
T-Model Ford, Cafe 9, New Haven, CT – 2/26
A dozen years ago I had a chance to see T-Model Ford open for R.L. Burnside at the House Of Blues in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his late seventies at the time, he’d only recently started recording and performing – just a kid with a dream, really. Café 9 is known as the “musician’s living room” and Ford spent the hours before his set resting comfortably at the bar; leaving him sufficiently relaxed by the time he took the stage.
“I’m from Greenville, Mississippi”, Ford reminded the crowd before touching off with “Mean Old Frisco” – battered into a new song called “Yes, I’m Standing”, though virtually the entire set is an excuse for the boogie or a shuffle. His nickname The Tail Dragger, is written across his Peavey Razer, which somehow stayed in tune despite the pounding it took on Howlin’ Wolf’s “44 Blues”, which goes on for about 15, though no one seemed to mind. Ever the raconteur, he cadges drinks from the crowd (“I need my medicine.”) before launching into Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man” and the tumblers of Johnny Walker Black line up atop his amplifier.
The twelve-bar chaos continued with lots of Muddy Waters – “Rock Me Baby”, “Honey Bee” and “Hoochie Coochie Man” (twice!) as well as the title track from his newest, “Ladies Man”, where we’re left with no doubt that this ninety year-old still likes a good time. With Burnside and Junior Kimbrough both gone, T-Model Ford is one of the last performers whose ramshackle style of blues can conjure up a Delta juke joint without a credibility problem. He manages to deliver a sepia-toned view of another world as well as something thoroughly modern.
It all wrapped up at nearly 1:30 in the morning with“Hip Shakin’ Woman” and Willie Dixon’s “My Babe”. By which point he’d worn out his drummer, Marty Reinsel of Gravelroad, nearly sixty years his junior.
Published in Relix Online