Jack Daniel Time

  • 2008
  • Jack Daniel Time
  • T-Model Ford
  • Mudpuppy Recordings


Recorded at Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale, MS, in February 2008, “Jack Daniel Time” is a throwback to another era. James “T-Model” Ford, now somewhere in his 80’s, brings to life the ambience of the juke joint and puts his own signature style to self-penned compositions as well as such blues classics as “Big Boss Man,” “Killing Floor,” and “That’s Alright Mama.” Listening to this album, one can smell the sawdust on the floor and the whiskey on the bar.

Ironically, this is hill country blues, rather than the deep Mississippi Delta form identified with Clarksdale and its region. Characterized by minimal melody but instead by rhythmic repetition and primal, emotive vocals, hill country blues is mesmerizing. T-Model proudly and adeptly continues the tradition of hill country predecessors Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Jessie Mae Hemphill. The latter three have died in the last 10 years and McDowell years earlier, but Ford is doing his part to keep the genre alive.

Half of the songs feature Ford backed by Terry “Harmonica” Bean on…guess what? harmonica, and 81 year old legendary drummer Sam Carr; the rest display Ford solo. All present a gritty authenticity, but the solo renditions are generally slower in tempo and Ford’s cracked, raspy vocals come to the fore. The buzzing and snapping of his guitar strings, occasional feedback, and some risible banter by Ford reveal the live nature of the recording and increase its sense of immediacy.

For those wary of the thousand-and eighth cover of blues classics, Ford’s treatments of “That’s Alright Mama” and “Killing Floor” will provide welcome variation. The former song, written by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and famously sung by Elvis Presley, is a gutbucket rendition at the other end of the spectrum from Presley’s rockabilly version. “Killing Floor,” a Howlin’ Wolf staple, is similarly transformed into a T-Model special. “Big Boss Man,” the Jimmy Reed classic, is closer to the original but still memorable.

“Jack Daniel Time” is no-frills blues: no chaser, just straight from the bottle.

[This review originally appeared on the BluesWax Web site.]