US - New York - Full Moon 73 - 09/21/02
T-Model Ford / Buddy Guy
BB King's, 04.11.02, New York City
When some balding banker-type yelled last night that the blues will never die, surely he meant
instead that they are infinite, or outside of mortal thoughts on time/ timeless. While it might
rankle puritans abit to think of young white guys like Johnny Lang (or hell, even Jack White) as
being "blues guitarists," hasn't the scent of new blood has always been threatening? Didn't
legendary bluesmen like Tommy Johnson, Willie Brown, and Charley Patton all laugh at Robert
Johnson when he first stumbled the strings in front of 'em? And who could have laughed before
these gents, mistakenly thought to be at the beginning of that blue light's inception, when its
tendrils must slither way back before the ears could truly hear 'em strumming and picking,
foot-stomping and brawling? It's a form as endless as Indian music scales, the blues, buzzing
and droning over hundreds of years in some skeletal or fleshy form of another, always between
the misguided Western notions of notes and conceits on time's divisible structures. And Time
don't mean shit when it comes to the blues. Headliner Buddy Guy knew that for sure, be it by
extending the twelve bars out past the horizon or else playing an incredibly slobbering noise
solo as he meandered through the crowd of BB King's last night, stopping for a drink at the bar
and then disappearing from the spotlight and video camera screens over the course of twenty
minutes, suddenly reappearing back on stage and continuing with his solo with a picked-up drum
stick, tearing at the strings over and over and over again. Whether he cut classic renditions
short or stretched them beyond the faces of the clock time, he pulled at those hands as much as
at the strings, even saying he didn't give a goddamn when he's suppose to stop his set. Cursing
at God also got more banker-type hoots.
Opener T-Model Ford had his own such vision of time (aside from a way-early start), imbibing
in the blues' "Tuck Everlasting"-like waters as well, but in a more silent way than the headliner.
His version of infinity is up there with John Lee Hooker's "Endless Boogie," as he and drummer
Spam set about wiggling and clopping like endless entrails of twitching gut-bucket and juke-joint
turns of string-bends and muddy, rubbery drumbeats. This time round (live and on the newest Fat
Possum record, Bad Man), the 78 year-old conjures up the infinite (well, 300 lbs.) heft
of The Howlin' Wolf most mightily. That growl and hazy, harrowing sound of "Moanin' at Midnight"
or "Smokestack Lightning" are indeed as outside of time as moonlight, scarcely human utterances,
and unfettered lupine-guitar rumblings can be, and T-Model is able to conjure them up at any
time, in unending permutations on those mysterious masculine themes in lurching, Zombie-like
backwoods dances. Add to the proceedings (captured in a live-like atmosphere by legendary
Stones/Big Star/Spiritualized producer, Jim Dickinson) a dead-on rendering of "Back Door Man"
and the resurrection of the blues is nearly complete.
Copyright © 2002 Andy Beta