T Model Ford and Gravel Road
Plug T Model Ford's newest CD into your iTunes player and the genre tab comes up “Religious.”
That's partly true. When Ford played Billings in 2005 during the short-lived Frostbite music festival, the ancient Mississippi bluesman earned some new worshipers among the more than 1,300 who attended.
Just how ancient the electric guitar player is, however, even he's not sure. He figures he's about 90 by now.
In Billings, Ford sat through his set, sharing the stage with a lone drummer, and urging the audience, unnecessarily it turned out, to “shake what you got.”
On “Taledragger,” he's backed by band members who are a third his age, all of them steeped not only in the blues, but grunge and trippy psychedelia.
It's a weird and winning fit.
On the rambling seven-minute opener, “Same Old Train,” Ford's voice is slightly cooked through the amps, improvising lyrics about his “big-legged woman” under the band's fuzzy backup. The shuffling “I'm Coming Home” adds baritone sax.
Then it's back to Woodstock and early electric Dylan with several cuts heavy on the wah-wah guitar, barrel house piano and heavily reverbed vocals. It's an energizing twist on traditional blues.
Things settle down slightly for the last two cuts, pushing Ford's fine, ragged vocals and guitar way out front for “Little Red Rooster” and “Red Dress.”
“Tomorrow the Green Grass: Legacy Edition”
“Hollywood Town Hall: Legacy Edition”
Just when you think the Jayhawks' vault had already been whisked clean, out comes the release of the missing album fans have considered the holy grail.
Tacked onto the two-CD reissue of 1995's “Tomorrow the Green Grass,” which features three previously unreleased cuts of its own, is the 18-track “Mystery Demos.”
Legend has it, Jayhawks founders Mark Olson and Gary Louris recorded as many as 46 demos over two sessions a half year apart in 1992. Eleven of those songs were eventually cut by the Jayhawks. Another 11 were used on solo and other non-Jayhawks projects such as Golden Smog.
That leaves 22 songs unreleased, with 18 of those appearing here for the first time.
And sure, the acoustic “Demos” aren't exactly a Jayhawks best-of compilation. The best of the songs were picked off long ago. What is does show is how deep the songwriting talent was for that duo, and how naturally captivating their lonesome harmonies could be. The tracks also show how much of an influence the pair had on the fuzzed-out, cosmic country rock revolution, with its 400 Uncle Tupelos, that was to follow.
The “Hollywood Town Hall” re-issue adds five cuts that betray the intentionally sober tone of the 1992 original. “Keith and Quentin” is a Southern boogie while “Up Above My Head” is a twangy, gospel hand-clapper.
“Tear the Fences Down”
The Eulogies, as their name suggests, have a tendency to take on a somber tone now and then.
For their third album, band leader Peter Walker has written a suite of songs as a tribute to a friend's 6-year-old son who died recently of cancer.
As sad as the topic is, the album is far from a downer. As always, guitarist/vocalist Walker has a knack for the lighthearted hook and knows when to lighten the mood with lots of hand-clappy rhythms and jangly piano runs.
The opener, “Out of Style, Out of Touch,” is driven by a high school marching band drum beat. “We'll find out what's left in us to celebrate,” Walker sings in his high, keening wail.
The title cut, the band's first single, is a short, sunny invitation to keep picking yourself up.
Unlike so many eulogies, there isn't a note of falseness to this project. It closes with the driving “Little Else to Say,” “You're gone, you're gone, you're gone/ But, you live on and on,” Walker sings.