"Keeping the Blues Alive Award" Achievement for Blues on the Internet Presented by The Blues Foundation
T-Model Ford (Rich Benson )
To warm up the swelling Cabooze audience, James "T-Model" Ford served up a healthy helping of down-home, Mississippi Hill Country Blues, embellished by his own style on guitar and vocals. Playing stripped down blues backed by his faithful drummer Spam, T-Model showed that he is still a strong guitarist and singer at the age of 78. T-Model opened things up with "Freight Train Blues," alternately picking and strumming, punctuating his guitar playing with jangling chords on the back beat. Singing in a low, slightly raspy, yet strong and clear voice, T-Model moved between words and a low, mournful wail that blended well with his guitar. In these days of short, catchy, radio friendly blues songs, T-Model played long rambling solos, as he did on "Shake What You Got," improvising just as much on vocals as he did on guitar. His songs kept the steady, hypnotic beat going with solid results.
The Greenville, Mississippi native provided more extended guitar riffs on "Chicken Leg Man," along with some vocals that seemed to wander and play to the crowd on hand. On "Big Boss Man" T-Model did some nice, fast picking on his guitar fills as he sang in a low, passion filled voice. All the while Spam played frequently back and forth across his drum kit with a single stick, placing the unused one in his shirt pocket, in his mouth, or just holding it up. T-Model joked with the crowd, commenting on the upcoming appearance of Johnny Winter and looking forward to what he referred to as "Jack Daniels time". T-Model smiled and seemed to enjoy playing and interacting with the crowd, sitting down and moving his body or stomping his foot to the beat.
T-Model closed out his solid set with the slow rolling blues of "Sallie Mae" from his latest CD, Bad Man. T-Model's slow, drawn-out, mournful vocals nicely complemented his repeating guitar licks. The length of T-Model's songs seemed just right for setting up that juke joint atmosphere he enjoys. Many dancers crowded onto the concrete floor in front of the stage that serves as a standing and dancing area. While giving the crowd the solid, danceable beat of the Mississippi Hill Country, T-Model delighted in putting his own spin on well-known blues songs while staying true to the original heart of the songs. The next time T-Model hits the Twin Cities, be sure and stop by for a healthy helping of authentic blues straight from the juke joint.
Johnny Winter with James Montgomery (Dave "Doc" Piltz )
Once T-Model Ford had completed his 45 minute opening set, it was time for the headliner, Texas blues-rock guitar icon Johnny Winter. On his recent tour, Winter has been performing with a three-piece band that features East Coast harp player James Montgomery and, true to form, on Tuesday night at The Cabooze, Winter was assisted onto the stage with Montgomery, bassist Scott Spray and drummer Wayne June ready to play. Although still needing some assistance getting onto the stage, in part due to his broken hip from last year, Winter was looking as healthy as I have seen him in recent years. Seated in front of his microphone, Johnny strapped on his Laser guitar and opened his set with a personalized rendition of Freddie King's "Hideaway," featuring solos by Winter and all members of the band. Sporting his longish white blond hair and a beard with a black brimmed hat, Johnny really seemed to be enjoying his work, putting out the sound that has made him famous since his debut in the late 1960's. The opener included a ripping harp solo by James Montgomery and set the tone for the remainder of the evening. Johnny may ave relocated to Connecticut in recent years, but his sound is still all Texas.
After the extended instrumental opener, Winter got down to business in a set that included a number of his best known songs, along with other familiar tunes and even a couple of songs from a new CD that is currently in the works. Songs like "Sugar Coated Love," "Boogie Real Low" and the slow, burning "Poor Man's Blues" had the packed house at The Cabooze cheering and screaming after every song. Unlike some of the other Johnny Winter shows I have been to, on Tuesday night, Winter shared vocal duties on several songs with James Montgomery ("Good Time Charlie" and Bo Diddley's "Mona") with one song (Freddie King's "Tore Down") featuring vocals by the band's drummer, Wayne June. On Winter's classics like "Mojo Boogie," "Boogie Real Low" and the finale, "Johnny Guitar," Winter reclaimed the vocals, exerting his personal style into these timeless standards.
After a bit of enthusiastic encouragement by the audience following "Johnny Guitar," Winter returned to the stage with his famous Gibson Thunderbird guitar in hand to play some nasty slide guitar. As the crowd continued their encouragement of Winter, it was clear that listening to Johnny play slide was something that nearly everyone had been waiting for. With the striking of the final note for the evening, Johnny Winter fans left The Cabooze happily knowing that Johnny Winter was still "Alive and Well" and able to put out his familiar Texas guitar sounds in a bit different, yet still compelling fashion. As he was helped from the stage and to his tour bus, I heard many people thanking him, wishing him well and hoping for a return to the Twin Cities sometime soon.
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