Can a German white man in the mid-'00s justifiably play the blues? He can if he's Ekkehard Ehlers (see his successful 2002 nod to Robert Johnson). Actually, the minimalist producer doesn't so much play the blues (he has a skillful band to do that, including guitarist/balafonist Joseph Suchy) as mutate them through processors and amps. Ehlers obviously reveres the blues' ability to convey powerful feelings through the barest means. A Life Without Fear is his and Suchy's tribute to the genre, 10 tracks that capture its consoling lugubriousness and stark spirituality while subtly tinkering with its sonic DNA. Even blues purists may be moved to tears.