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 out in the past decade or so. To drive home the point, the ornery 80-something Mississippi singer-guitarist and raconteur regularly retrofits the 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, with minimal accompaniment and a freewheelin’ attitude (much like his legendary two-hours-plus sets), 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
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