A man who didn't really get his start in music until he was in his 70s, T-Model Ford has nonetheless poured a life full of hard living and hard knocks -- including serving time for murder -- into his songs. Now in his 80s, the Mississippi singer-guitarist plays a raw, stripped-down combination of rural roadhouse stomps and Chicago electric blues, accompanied onstage only by his drummer Spam.
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His version of the blues on "Come Back Home" (from his second album, 1998's You Better Keep Still) is much closer to the primal earthiness of Howlin' Wolf than the slick superficiality of Robert Cray, and he's inspired garage-rock bands like the Neckbones, who did a riotous cover of "Nobody Gets Me Down." Despite his minimalist, no-nonsense approach, Ford has occasionally messed with expectations -- much like Fat Possum label mates Paul Jones and R.L. Burnside -- by throwing psychedelic hip-hop accents into remixes of songs like "Pop Pop Pop." But most of the time, it all comes down to the gruff observations of this "Wood Cuttin' Man," and the way T-Model's jumpy riffs flop and wriggle underneath the basic thwack of Spam's drums. (Falling James)