ROBERT BELFOUR, T-MODEL FORD, PAUL JONES
Thanks in part to a distribution deal with punk behemoth Epitaph, the tiny Mississippi blues imprint Fat Possum no longer has to work so hard to make people pay attention to its releases. Label head Matthew Johnson stirred up a buzz in the mid-90s by presenting the Fat Possum roster as a motley crew of mean, dirty, loud old motherfuckers who'd brook neither slick urban production nor placid back-porch revivalism--but in knocking down one stereotype, he'd set up another. In the liner notes for T-Model Ford's debut CD, Johnson fetishized the septuagenarian's lengthy rap sheet, and in one song Ford himself threatened to put his "shoes in your ass." On She Ain't None of Your'n, his third album for the label, the music is finally allowed to speak for itself--and once more, backed by a variety of drummers, Ford brings a delirious, overamplified rawness to riffs you thought you'd never need to hear again. Recent Fat Possum signee Robert Belfour, who headlines this show, breaks ranks with labelmates like Ford, R.L. Burnside, and opening act Paul Jones in that when he plugs in at all, he doesn't automatically crank the volume to 11. He plays acoustic on more than half and solo on all but two tracks of his recent What's Wrong With You, favoring a hypnotic minimalist approach not far from that of his onetime neighbor Junior Kimbrough. And though some choked-sounding fingerpicking lends his music a certain ferocity, he sings in a shaky but deep heartfelt wail that doesn't confuse rage with expressivity. Opener Paul Jones recorded a relatively conventional electric blues album for Fat Possum in 1995, before the Epitaph deal, but on his latest, Pucker Up Buttercup, he sounds like he's playing through a busted fuzzbox--the guitar track on "Roll That Woman" is little more than a rhythmic series of distortion blasts. Like Burnside, he submits one song to an ill-advised remix treatment ("Goin' Back Home"), but he sounds pretty good on the raw gospel gem "Lead Me On," backed only by his drummer, Pickle, and I couldn't help but be entertained by the "original" he calls "Dee Dee Dee," where he changes all the words to the Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup classic "That's All Right Mama" to "dee dee dee." Thursday, August 31, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Amos Harvey.