Review - In Your Arms Again - John Hammond Jr.
| John Hammond
In Your Arms Again (Back Porch)
For more than four decades, John Hammond Jr. has been among the best white country blues interpreters. Now the 62-year-old guitarist and harmonica player is back with a new release, In Your Arms Again, proving the son of the legendary Columbia Records talent scout John Hammond Sr. still has his funky touch.
Recording in the ambience of a deconsecrated church in Salinas, Kansas, Hammond is joined by Stephen Hodges on drums and percussion and Marty Ballou on basses for a dozen songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Bob Dylan, Bukka White, Percy Mayfield, and, for the second consecutive disc, himself. Hammond is a superb guitar player who can fingerpick complex parts on the acoustic, play slide well, and handle the electric when it suits the song. Vocally, he tries to sound black when singing blues. This is high-risk behavior for the Caucasian larynx—it’s easy to sound strained without the requisite control—but he makes it work.
Hammond’s masterful chops and gritty feel jump your bones right from the first track, “Jitterbug Swing,” a pulsing Delta-style slide-guitar showpiece. In a nod to the late Ray Charles, he does justice to a pair of the Genius’s numbers, “I Got a Woman” and “Fool for You,” with impassioned singing. For Howlin’ Wolf’s “I’m Leavin’ You,” “My Baby’s Gone” and “Evil,” Hammond changes to a postwar Chicago sound, switching to electric guitar played in a 1950s style reminiscent of Hubert Sumlin or Jimmy Rodgers. His two originals, the title track “In Your Arms Again” and “Come to Find Out,” are both acoustic fingerstyle outings may not break new ground but nonetheless hold their own with the rest of the selections. In the last cut, Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” Hammond’s voice soars sans his typical black affect, leaving it to his steel-bodied slide guitar to provide a cool blue shading.
In Your Arms Again shows that John Hammond still has something to say, and that it’s still worth hearing.
Index of Metroland Articles by Glenn Weiser
©2005 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.
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