It’s been some time since we’ve had occasion to discuss T-Model Ford on these pages, with Ford — who frequently declared “Jack Daniel’s time!” between songs, often accompanied by a drink of it — unfortunately having passed back in 2013 somewhere in his late 80s or early 90s (no one was certain what year Ford was born, although he claimed to be 93 the year of his death). A mentor to musicians such as Lightnin’ Malcolm and Ken Valdez (who recorded a fine tribute to Ford shortly following Ford’s death), Ford’s performance at the 2008 Deep Blues Festival in Minnesota has been available for viewing on YouTube for at least almost a decade, but, with the latest offering of the festival having taken place in recent months, we thought it might be a good time to take a closer listen to this release from Alive Naturalsound Records that now gives you the opportunity to own much of that Deep Blues set on CD and/or vinyl.
One could easily get the impression T-Model wasn’t in the best of moods this day, between the seemingly more persistent than usual calls of “Jack Daniel’s time!” (at least a handful throughout the nine-song set) and such grumblings from Ford, for example, as “and that’s for goddamn sure” when one of the band announced that today’s would be a short set. But, if that was indeed the case, you sure wouldn’t know it from the rest of his performance, which starts with a shuffling “Hip Shakin’ Woman” and hits on several other nice uptempo numbers such as “Hi-Heel Sneakers” and “Cut You Loose” along with other gems like a hypnotic “Chickenhead Man” to which we could probably listen all night and the closing “Got a Woman” with its soaring vocals.
Ford’s versions of “Hoochie Coochie Man” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ask Her for Water” (with a bit of a stronger “Smokestack Lightning” feel) may not be the most faithful or structured, but it’s good nonetheless to hear Ford’s take on such classics. We’re sure it all sounds great on vinyl, but the slow-dragging “Stella Mae” as a CD-only track provides a strong incentive to pick up a copy of the album on CD as well, with the only small disappointment here (besides being a shorter set) being that the track titled “Somebody’s Knockin'” is not in fact “Somebody’s Knockin’,” which would have both contributed some additional variety to the set and stood out among the album’s highlights, but rather somewhat of a reprise of “Hip Shakin’ Woman” sometimes titled (what else but) “Jack Daniel Time.”
But in the end that track confusion is a minor inconvenience compared with being able to hear the rest of this historic set — which features Lightnin’ Malcolm on drums for numbers such as “Chickenhead Man” and that mistitled “Somebody’s Knockin'” — somewhere beyond YouTube. So go ahead and pour yourself a glass of Jack Daniel’s to enjoy while you listen to this much-missed “Boss of the Blues”!
Here’s a little “Cut You Loose” to get you started:
(And here’s a video of the actual version of “Somebody’s Knockin'” from that same performance:)