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Saturday Crowd Scenes: p.V


T-Model!

by Joe CARNEY

        "I can walk into any room....and make a woman change her mind." The huge, weathered hand of T-Model Ford squeezes my forearm, and I ponder his promise as he fixes his gaze towards my friend, Inga. He laughs a deep brown laugh that rises all the way from the dirt farms in Greenville, Mississippi to fill the room. He leans closer and whispers. "But I wouldn't do you like that. 'Cause I know you wouldn't either." Thanks T-Model. T-Model is seventy-six years old of pure blues man, and proudly claims fatherhood to "twenty-six living children." Most likely, he's done a few people "like that" along the way. Here, though, he is more grandfather / less predator, and the room is his.We sit around a small, round table and T-Model holds court.

        He has just romped through an hour long set with his drummer, Spam, but T-Model will not let up. "Remember...women have a tree, but men have THA' ROOT."  Root down, T-Model's music oozes sex and violence. The man cannot stand without a crutch, so he sits on stage grabbing and pushing low moans from his star-shaped Peavey.  "This is my black beauty."


       Un-dat...aTTa...un...dat....un-DAT. Spam rocks his six foot-five frame and smacks the pearled snare. He waves a left hand to no one in particular and chomps the other drumstick in his mouth. Hell hound beat. T-Model glares out from under his black fedora, riding the ONE-AND hard. The riff builds with tension. The notes that T-Model puts forth sound like lightning being pushed through a keyhole. Energy that squeals and hangs in the air and hits you in the heart and stomps you good.

Feel sooo BAADDD.....Feel like breakin' someone's arm.......

Yeah, this is a bad man. No feel good, Saturday night party here.
The set list:
I'm Insane-Can't Be Touched-Where You Been?-Let Me In Gangsta' rap to the back of the line please. The crowd will be moved by force. The roof moves voluntarily.

                                                               ***

       Backstage, T-Model shares his smile. Stories are told. Threats are made. Boasts thrown out. Gold tooth gleams a bite of truth. I am right next to the man who is the last of the originals. Folks who make the music that has made them. Mississippi blues. American soul.

        My dad tells me stories about his uncles and cousins who emigrated from Ireland. Matter of fact musicians, they would gather on weekends to play their music for love in local kitchen rackets. Fiddles, guitars, and whistles would burn as midnight fuel. Lost sons conjuring up Celtic spirits.

My father sat at the feet of these singers and dreamed of the rolling hills and rivers in their songs. I've had these dreams too. I dream I'm in that room. In those hills.

       Today, I play music. I lean left towards the blues, and listen now to T-Model telling it. I wish that my great uncles, or cousins, or grandparents (all were gone before my birth) were here. The rivers have crossed.

       "Nigger's goin' up a hill one day. Goin' up that hill. Climbin'... climbin' up. All day. Gets up there. Climbs to the top. The real top....Looks down. From the top. In that valley....He sees one of  those man....white man."

       "Like me, T-Model?"

       "Yeah,......like you."

- . -

Twelve Bar Truths, Fall 1997.

*Ed. Note: Kitchen rackets are once again in music community consciousness, as a reference point for home concerts. There are some great local and regional organizations dedicated to bringing musicians and audiences together under familiar roofs. (Scott Alarik, In A Living Room Near You, Boston Globe 3.15.01)
Boston Globe 3.15.01)
http://www.boston.com/globe/search/  and
http://www.houseconcerts.com/o3.htm
T-Model Ford, RL Burnside and other Mississippi blues men are still on the road. Their spirit is perpetuated on Fat Possum Records
http://www.fatpossum.com/tmodel.html and by bands like 20 Miles
http://www.fatpossum.com/miles.html and North Mississippi All-Stars.
http://www.tonecool.com/main.cfm

Special thanks to Inga Larson for T-Model art work.

E-mail: carneyjoe@hotmail.com

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