Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

JOHN HAMMOND

ROUGH & TOUGH

2009-09-02

John Hammond has made a career of covering first generation blues players. This disc features him not only covering their tunes but emulating their straight up and simple recording style as well with no overdubs, no production and a “what you play is what you get” performance. Recorded live, but without an audience, at St. Peter’s church in New York, Hammond applies his considerable instrumental skills and vocals to Muddy Waters’ "Still a Fool" and "I Can’t Be Satisfied", Howlin’ Wolf’s "My Mind is Ramblin’" and "No Place to Go", Little Walters’ "Up the Line" and "Got to Find My Baby", Jerry McCain’s "She’s Tough", Blind Willie McTell’s "Statesboro Blues" and a host of others. While recording live knowing that the safety net of studio tweaks isn’t going to be used to save the day causes many an artist to play it safe, Hammond seems inspired by the risk and plays with the abandon that makes live performances shine compared to over-scrubbed studio efforts. Hammond’s intricate National Steel guitar work is captivating throughout and age has added an edge of hard won wisdom to his voice. When he throws harmonica into the mix the interplay with his guitar is so tight that you could be forgiven for assuming that someone else must have jumped in to accompany him. While the tunes collected here have mostly been covered to the point that their names alone could evoke a "Mustang Sally" flinch by blues fans, Hammond has stripped them of their electric city roots and presents them as mesmerizing acoustic numbers. While you’ve heard them all before, most come across as almost new. Adding to the sense of new discovery is the re-imagined "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and the hard charging take on Tom Waits’ "Get behind Mule". You owe it to yourself to give these old tunes a new listen. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.