It’s hard to imagine a more fitting origin for a bluesman than not knowing your exact birthdate. To think you might have been born in 1920 or possibly 1922, and to have begun your commercial career as a bluesman in your early seventies, is to echo a hard life that included pre-teen plow work behind a mule, blue collar jobs in lumber and truck driving, and enough scrapes with the law (including a string on a chain gang) to lose count of the years. Ford isn’t a product of blues music so much as his delta blues is the product of a life that began in the deep, segregated south of Forest, Mississippi. Ford’s recording career began in the mid-1990s with a string of albums for Fat Possum. His songs are built on repetitive blues progressions and lyrics that often seem made up on the spot.
Ford’s latest, on the Alive label, was recorded live-in-the-studio at the end of one of his infrequent tours. Ford plays acoustic guitar and sings, with some younger players following along quietly on guitar, harmonica and percussion. His picking is solid, but what’s especially impressive is his voice. There’s a weathered edge to his tone, but his pitch is surprisingly sharp. Not sharp for an 88-year-old (or so) man; just sharp. He reprises the originals “Chicken Head Man” and “Hip Shakin’ Woman,” and blues classics from Roosevelt Sykes (“44 Blues”), Willie Dixon (“My Babe”), and Jimmy Rogers (“That’s Alright”). The informal recording session, planned at the last minute and plotted on the fly, finds Ford edging into each song as the mood and memory strike him. Two interview tracks further flesh out the character of this one-of-a-kind bluesman. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]