James “T-Model” Ford introduces his own bad self in the early seconds of what’s billed on the cover as “The Ultimate T-Model record” thusly: “The Taaaildragguh, from Greenville Mississssippi. I’m the boss of the blues. Can’t read, can’t write, ain’t ne’er been to school a day in my life.” Then he slips a greasy lick into first gear and he’s off.
So you know right off the bat this is supposed to be the raw, real, not-supposed-to-call-it-primitive-on-account-of-the-race-thing-but-still-that’s-what’s-being-sold goods. And Fat Possum Records has sold a good bit of it, to alternating acclaim from slop-rock sympathizers and criticisms of exploitation from more sensitive types.
It’s hard to know what blues purists are making of the authenticity question these days, what with all the true originators now long gone, but Bad Man earns its self-descriptions and “raw” and “rockin’” both. This is electric blues off the porch, staggering and lurching down the street with an almost total disregard for the downbeat—they’re all downbeats here, and the bridge sometimes doesn’t bother to show up at all. All of the blues’ lyrical tropes are in place—see the title—but you can’t criticize this stuff for hewing too rigidly to the blues’ endless 12-bar, AAB structures. Bad Man wanders wherever he wants, whenever he feels like it. Hard to say how “primitive” that is, but it sounds great. (Brad Tyer)
T-Model Ford and fellow Delta blues atavists Paul Jones, Cedric Burnide and Kenny Brown fire up the Juke Joint Caravan’s Missoula stop on Sunday, May 16, at The Other Side.Jucifer
Remember how good it felt to be 15 years old, barely playing guitar, and lucky enough to have a friend’s older brother who let you plug in to his Marshall half-stack? Didn’t matter if you knew how to play anything. You felt like you could just stand there repeating a few dirgey riffs over and over forever.
Jucifer do stand there playing the same few dirgey riffs over and over forever. If your friend’s older brother also had drums, the two of you could form a band that would sound like this after a weekend. It might take some looking around the neighborhood to find a girl with the same eerie baby-doll vocals as Jucifer axemistress Amber Valentine, but you could have the thud-thud-crunch part down by the time The Simpsons came on.
True, War Bird rocks pretty good before going stale. True, there are surprises, like the deft finger picking and wonderful sentiment of the Guthrie-esque “My Stars.” But then again, Jucifer also do that thing on the last track of War Bird where they let the tape roll after the song is over to catch the ambient entropy of studio crackles and hums, for like half an hour, which is usually a sign that a band is fresh out of ideas but still feels the need to fill the whole CD. (Andy Smetanka)
Jucifer plays The Other Side on Wednesday, May 19.RBIZ
Everywhere I Go
You must have to have rock-solid self-confidence to be a rap MC in the sticks. No one’s really popping caps in anyone’s ass around here, thank God. Is it possible to rhyme with Big Sky flavor without coming off as some hapless provincial?
Here, in CD form, are several possible answers. RBIZ, aka Ryan Bradshaw, raised in Drummond, sure doesn’t lack for self-confidence. From the liner notes to Everywhere I Go: “[A]ll you so-called people are too ignorant and stupid to realize I proved you wrong a long time ago by sticking this out and finally getting it done. Whether I sell one copy or a thousand, in my own mind I’m one of the best MCs out there.”
This would be pricelessly funny if Everywhere I Go weren’t very good. But it is very good, actually—though a little perplexing in places. Local flavors can be odd. Consider this line, which is probably not to be taken literally: “Niggaz in the frat-house, get to steppin’.” Strange confluence of West Coast style and local content, there, eh?
Your call whether RBIZ is the MC he thinks he is, but you’ll at least have to allow that he could be Montana’s Phil Spector of hip-hop for the thick arrangements, strings and all. Being the best MC in Montana might be a little like being the best ballerina in Galveston, but you gotta start somewhere. Support local hip hop, and start with Everywhere I Go. (Andy Smetanka)
There’s an RBIZ show on Saturday, May 15, at The Other Side, with Crew Concepts and Relle from the Dirty South’s Lil Flip clique.By Divine Right
Apparently worshipped as rock demigods in parts of China (in December, 2003, By Divine Right became the second small-time Canadian band to tour the Communist mainland in as many years, playing for far bigger audiences than what they were used to back in Toronto). It’s easy to hear why By Divine Right make such good musical ambassadors. They play clean-cut but appealingly raw ’60s pop with great vocal hooks and vivid patches of paisley guitar. At least half of their songs address the importance of friends, which is one of the many things about Sweet Confusion to make that all-important good first impression. By Divine Right is easy to like. They would charm the dickens out of your parents if you brought them home after school, like a band full of Key Club members and French Club treasurers.
Never mind that for the title track, they smuggled The Nazz’s “Open My Eyes” out of the fuzz factory in pieces and re-assembled it in their garage. Never mind that parts of Sweet Confusion play as much like a fake-book of ’60s psych as The Cult’s Electric played like a crib-sheet of ’70s hard rock. Never mind the cheesebag band name. By Divine Right are kids you want to be friends with, and Sweet Confusion is good clean fun. (Andy Smetanka)