T-Model Ford
Pee-Wee Get My Gun
Fat Possum/Epitaph 80303-2
"I went out last night," T-Model Ford rasps in this album's closing song, "and I got HIGH." Then he begs for somebody to "let me in." It's nothing new, as lyrics go, but Ford's mumbling voice has exactly the right mix of exhilaration and desperation to match the theme. This sloppy, barely produced album of vocals, drums and electric guitars rides on the strength of Ford's moods for 11 songs.

They say a blues singer has to live a certain kind of rough, dangerous life to properly do his job. That's pretty much a crock -- even rich kids can do it if they have the right attitude. But rough and dangerous are always a bonus: Terrific, unromantic liner notes by producer Matthew Johnson say Mississippi -- Ford's home state -- "has got to be the worst place to live." He further reports that Ford, born in Forrest maybe 75 years ago, was sentenced to 10 years for murder but was released after two for good behavior.

"I've been shot. And I've been cut," Ford reports, quite believably, at the beginning of "Nobody Gets Me Down." The music is like vintage John Lee Hooker, with absolutely no consideration for hitting any commercial chart or making money. Ford's electric guitar plays one jagged riff over and over for an entire song -- with no solo, of course -- and his younger sidekick Spam falls underneath with what sounds like metal pipes banging against plastic buckets.

The most polished tracks are "Been a Long Time" and "Feels So Bad," which is because the great Mississippi rhythm section of Frank Frost (on keyboards) and Sam Carr (on drums) contribute a natural musical focus. Call this "Burnside blues": The Holly Springs, Mississippi, guitarist R.L. Burnside has made it possible for obscure Mississippi bluesmen to make raw rock'n'roll albums by following their instincts. Which means a whole lot of shrieking and whooping.

-- Steve Knopper

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Boulder, CO, USA.