photos by Jeremy Farmer
review by Sheryl Witlen
There is something to be said about spirit. James Lewis Carter Ford, aka T Model Ford is a southern gentleman who has enough tales and more salt than most of the young musicians currently on the scene and he is 86 years young. Born in the town of Forrest within the small community of Scott County, Mississippi he has since fathered four albums and is currently touring with Seattle’s own Gravelroad in support of his latest release, Jack Daniel’s Time. But James did not always play the guitar, flirting with the ladies from his perch and chocking out whiskey soaked lyrics. Here is a man who has weathered the southern wilds of our country working his family farm at the young age of 11 spending his days toiling behind a plow in the hot Mississippi sun. Rumor has it his father was an incredibly hard working man and as his keeper, rarely allowed James to ever leave the farm, not even for proper schooling until he was 17. From there he worked various handy man jobs at a sawmill, a logging camp and as a truck driver. He has stumbled upon hard times, serving two years of a ten year jail term and lived through 5 marriages. At the gentile age of 58 James received his first guitar and tested his hand at Howlin’ Wolf and went on to record four records Pee-Wee Get My Gun (1997), You Better Keep Still (1999), She Ain’t None of Your’n (2000), and Bad Man (2002) all of which were released via Fat Possum Records. His most recent album, Jack Daniels’ Time was released on Mudpuppy Records and features the classic T-Model Ford howling stylistics and rough ragged guitar rhythms. An old soul who should not and cannot be challenged or rushed it is clear he is in command and enjoying himself. Cat calling the ladies and making eyes the force of which would make even the most stodgy of ladies blush he is so talented you cannot help but let go and enjoy a sound that sets America and the Southern tradition of blues apart from anywhere else in the world. Gently rocking his guitar and grooving with closed eyes everyone witnessing his performance is the luckier for it. Gravel Road have the fortunate opportunity to tour with him for their combined upcoming fall schedule. James is usually a minimalist, playing with his drummer Spam sometimes even on his local haunt, Nelson Street in Greenville, South Missouri, it is apparent he is a man who is enjoying his time as a contributor to the Delta based-music community. Stefan Z (on guitar and vocals), Martin R (on drums, vocals), Jon “Kirby” N (on bass, guitar) make up Gravelroad. Talented blues musicians in their own right they are in store for the time of their life keeping up with James and are enjoying every second of the adventure. Introduced during a festival Martin glows with the mention of working with such an incredible presence and within five seconds of meeting James you completely understand why. It is magical to know that some musicians truly are making music just like they used to in the good olden days. Rough, dry, sparse, volatile, hot and rare T-Model Ford and Gravelroad make such beautiful sounds together you feel honored that James was able to live through all he has to be reborn into a truly brilliant singer and songwriter.