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True Blues

The Fat Possum Juke Joint Caravan is bringing songs of anger, misery and lust to Blueberry Hill -- and you'd be a fool to miss it

Robert Belfour's music represents quite a departure for Fat Possum in that his debut album, What's Wrong With You, is, with the exception of the opening track, a solo acoustic recording. Self-taught as a guitarist, the 60-year-old Belfour plays the same type of droning blues as his friend Kimbrough, but the absence of a band or electric instruments make tunes like "Black Mattie" and "Done Got Old" seem even more intense, hypnotic and obsessive. Now retired after 35 years in the construction business (his job was pouring concrete), Belfour is at last able to pursue music full-time, and his retirement's loss is our gain. What's Wrong With You is one of the best albums of the year.

T-Model Ford's hard, cutting brand of blues is about as elemental as music gets.
Matthew Johnson
T-Model Ford's hard, cutting brand of blues is about as elemental as music gets.

At 53, Paul "Wine" Jones represents a younger generation of bluesmen for Fat Possum. His albums Mule and Pucker Up Buttercup reveal songs nearly as primitive as those of Ford -- Jones, too, is backed only by a drummer, in his case a guy named Pickle. (You think he knows Spam?) What drives Jones' blues, though, is Fat Possum's trademark unpredictability: Jones and Pickle wander all around the beat, and when in doubt, they just keep going. Some would say the pair plays sloppily; others would contend they're just doing what comes naturally. After all, does anybody who is feeling the music count the beats in a measure when John Lee Hooker is playing? For me, Jones remains a subject for further investigation. On Pucker Up, the song "Lead Me On" finds Jones claiming to love the Lord and pleading for salvation. (He also seems to have dropped the nickname "Wine" from his moniker.) The album ends, though, with a rant called "Guess I Just Fucked It All Up Again." It'll be interesting to see on which side of the fence this story ends.

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