If the biggest blues names from Chess Records' heydey had hopped a Greyhound, hightailed it out of Chicago and returned to the South, their records might have sounded a lot like those T-Model Ford has turned in the past decade or so. To drive the point home, the ornery eightysomething Mississippi singer-guitarist and raconteur regularly retrofits signature tunes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Rogers and Little Walter, sonically slipping them out of sharkskin suits and into bib overalls. Performed in the studio much like his legendary two hours-plus sets, with minimal accompaniment and a freewheelin' attitude, The Ladies Man is Ford at his just-let-him-go best. He breaks the action here and there to tell a quick tale to the crew that serves as both backup band and audience. Aside from classics by the aforementioned legends, Ford includes his own de facto theme song "Chicken Head Man." Maybe it's because playing music is so "new" to the man — he was nearly 60 when he began — but a country-blues sound this genuine and this alive in this century is the longest of long shots. — Duane Verh
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.