15 November 2011

MiSSiSSiPPI MEETS MANHATTAN: Robert Belfour and T-Model Ford Do New York

 An olde show review from two-thousand-ought-seven by Matt Rogers:

"The Black Keys? I ain't never met 'em. I ain't scared of 'em, though." When reminded that he had indeed met "those two white boys from Ohio," T-Model responded: "They play a different style of music. I'm playing the hard blues, and they can't play that. They play rock, and I don't like rock. They wants my style. Don't you think they don't now."

And so four days after the much-hyped Black Keys blasted a sold-out Mercury Lounge, Fat Possum label-mates T-Model Ford and Robert "Wolfman" Belfour gave the same venue a lesson in straight-up Mississippi blues.
The thickly sideburned Mr. Belfour, clad elegantly in slick brown suit, matching top hat and fat gold rings, assumed the catbird seat first. With the help of his "RPB"-initialed steel-string acoustic guitar and a heavy fuzztone amp, the elder Wolfman masterfully finger-picked originals from his latest release, "Pushin' My Luck," (e.g. "Black Mattie") and classic covers (e.g. "Baby Please Don't Go," which he declared was the first song he learned when he was 7) while howling about women who wouldn't cook after a hard day's work or had left yet again with a best friend.

Throughout the hour-long set the retired construction worker rocked forward and back, tapping his foot hard while he forcefully strummed, his booming hill-country sound — part Howlin' Wolf, part Lightnin' Hopkins — interrupted only by sips of J.D. chased by Bud, and a late busted string.
Hence, we were nicely awash with raw Mississippi lament when the 80-year-old T-Model Ford, dressed-down in jeans and ball cap, hobbled with his cane to center stage. Once sitting he adjusted his glasses, smiled and greeted the main inspiration for his music: "Hello, ladies. If y'all ain't never seen him, this is T-Model Ford. And I'm the blues man. And that's fo' sho'!" And with that he picked up his electric black Peavey Razor, which looked like it might have belonged to Eddie Van Halen when he was hot for teacher; smiled again at the twenty somethings lined in front; then signaled with a yelp for his longtime drummer Spam to begin the steady four-beat march of the duo's crunching boogie-woogie style.
This was music full of hootin' and hollerin', foot-stomping blues meant to help sweat any sorrow out of your system.

This was T-Model's brand of Viagra, as he wiggled and squirmed in his chair, massaging the metallic twang from his "Black Nanny" with nimble chords and finger-picking as if he were working one of his previous five wives, all the while his eyes gleaming and grinning at the ladies shaking it before him.

A shout of "It's Jack Daniels time!" punctuated the end of each song, and then he'd reach down for his cup. His two-hour set was relentless (and by his standards short; back home he regularly plays eight hours straight), filled with favorites like "Chickenhead Man" and "To the Left to the Right," and gradually wore down the younger generations until the self-proclaimed "tail-dragger from Greenville, Mississippi," was nearly dancing alone, still ready to get it on. And that's fo' sho'!

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