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Wicked Grin

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Audio CD, March 13, 2001
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$8.13 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 7 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Wicked Grin is wicked indeed, just as sharp and clear and perceptive as you'd expect of an album of Tom Waits songs performed by veteran bluesman John Hammond. That basically sums up what Wicked Grin is all about; only one song on the album, the traditional "I Know I've Been Changed," wasn't written by Waits. This gorgeous recording should appeal to fans of both artists: Waits's songwriting is as incisive as ever, and Hammond explores each song to its fullest potential as he makes it his own. Waits produced the album as well. Between them, the two musicians achieve a kind of synthesis that makes for a damn fine collection. The first few songs kick things off nicely, evoking urban images, specifically of New York City, that stick in the mind like a tune running through your head that won't leave. Then there's "Shore Leave," with a sort of dark harmonic drone behind everything that makes the whole song downright spooky; the bittersweet "Fannin Street," which almost sounds like one of Johnny Cash's sweeter songs; and the Spanish-inflected "Jockey Full of Bourbon," which is capable of raising goose bumps. The format of this collaboration is perhaps a bit unusual--though there's a long history in the blues of artists covering other artists' work, it's usually done after the artist being covered is safely dead and can't object--but it works so well that it makes an excellent argument for continuing the practice, even if it's doubtful that most such pairings could be as successful as this one. This may well be one of the best releases of 2001. --Genevieve Williams

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. 2:19 4:42$1.29  Buy MP3 
  2. Heartattack And Vine 4:40$1.29  Buy MP3 
  3. Clap Hands 3:59$1.29  Buy MP3 
  4. 'Till The Money Runs Out 4:02$1.29  Buy MP3 
  5. 16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six 4:37$1.29  Buy MP3 
  6. Buzz Fledderjohn 4:14$1.29  Buy MP3 
  7. Get Behind The Mule 5:54$1.29  Buy MP3 
  8. Shore Leave 2:58$1.29  Buy MP3 
  9. Fannin Street 4:48$1.29  Buy MP3 
10. Jockey Full Of Bourbon 3:32$1.29  Buy MP3 
11. Big Black Mariah 4:09$1.29  Buy MP3 
12. Murder In The Red Barn 5:56$1.29  Buy MP3 
13. I Know I've Been Changed 2:19$1.29  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 13, 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Virgin
  • ASIN: B000059T5O
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,169 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John E. Bloner Jr. on March 17, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Oh, man! I've been waiting for this disc for nearly a decade. Back in 1992, Tom Waits gave John Hammond a song, "No One Can Forgive Me But My Baby," which Hammond put on his "Got Love If You Want It" record. It's been one of my favorite tracks ever since. On "Wicked Grin," Hammond visits Waits' neighborhood--a cold, dark, rainy place, somewhere in the Midwest, where the trains clatter nearby all night long--and makes himself right at home. He runs a comb through his pompadour and lets his freak flag fly on a dozen Waits' tunes and one tasty, groovin', hand-clapped gospel song, in which ol' Tom himself joins in on a verse. Along for the ride are Stephen Hodges on drums and percussion; Larry Taylor on bass; Charlie Musselwhite on harp; and Augie Meyers on keyboards and accordion. Meyers' music-making really shakes this record. His Hammond organ slinks behind the guitar fuzz of "Heartattack and Vine." On "Shore Leave," he lays down a carny-style Vox organ, while Hammond croons about squeezing all the life out of a two-day pass at a moonlit Chinatown fair. By the time, the record reaches "Murder In The Red Barn," Meyers is chilling with plum-perfect notes on an upright piano. I just hope I don't need to wait another nine years for Marla Hammond and Kathleen Brennan to bring Tom and John (and Augie, too!) together again. I'm already assembling a wish list of songs for their next record. I can't wait to hear John walk Spanish down the hall, fall in love with a Gun Street girl or pull on Trouble's braids. Until then, I've got a wicked grin, too, listening to Hammond and Waits on this shakin' disc.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 5, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This is one of the best blues albums of the past 20+ years, combining John Hammond's gutty vocals and guitar with the quirky settings of producer Tom Waits (who also wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs). It's a dirty concoction of mean streets and gutted dreams, yet elevated by the power and redemption of the blues.
The song most emblematic of the album's superiority is Track 2, "Heart Attack and Vine." This is an almost unbelievable recreation of Muddy waters' Chicago blues, thick with deep, raw, Boomy guitars and Hammond's Louisiana vocal accents. Wonderful lyrics, and an incredible sound; it has the ambience of a live set... somewhere in Chicago 45 years ago! It also features great work on the Hammond organ by Augie Meyers. I haven't heard anything like this in years.
Tracks 1 and 3 also merit special praise. Hammond's quick and cutting riffs on "2:19", coupled with Larry Taylor's thundering bass is head-shaking stuff. His playing somehow combines the power of electronic sound with the intimacy and personal touches of acoustic.
Track 3, "Clap Hands" fills a blues groove with the sinister spirit of a church with secrets, due, in large part, to Charlie Musselwhite's sinewy harmonica brewing darkly underneath. (It's so good to hear Musselwhite and his buzzsaw sound reminiscent of James Cotton.) The other songs take various blues routes and are uniformly excellent, including the John Lee Hooker flavor of "16 Shells...," Hammond's steel guitar on the country blues " Buzz Fledderjohn," the soulful "Shore Leave," and Musselwhite on "Big Black Mariah" Of special note is the gentle "Fannin Street," a folk-songish acoutic piece which, for some reason, reminded me of some of Traffic's (rock group) acoustic work.
There are annoying too-kewl liner "notes' by T. Bone Burnett, but no matter: This is a must have for all blues lovers.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 18, 2001
Format: Audio CD
The vault of Tom Waits' back-catalogue has been smashed open, 13 songs wrenched from it, beaten within an inch of their lives and brought, screaming, into the light.
With the help of a gloriously raw production by Waits himself, John Hammond has spawned the blues album of this, or any other year.
13 tracks of gravel, needles, broken glass, smoke and sweat distilled by the deep velvet growl of Hammond, who has never sounded better, he was born for this.
Can't get the CD off the player. One of those albums that makes you close your eyes, grit your teeth, grimace and crank the amp up one notch louder. Tough to pick out a favourite.....maybe Heartattack & Vine or Clap Hands. Only shame is that it will be filed under 'John Hammond/Blues' which may deprive a larger audience of a true gem.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I've been an Amazon customer almost since the start-up, and this is the first time I've ever been moved to post a review. And this after only the first hearing! I've never, to my knowledge, heard John Hammond before, though I'll certainly be on the lookout now - but I'm a BIG Tom Waits fan. Big, big, big. But I have to admit that there are times when I'm just not in the mood for that (yes, incredible, but) that...VOICE. Even when he's being funny or having fun, he still makes me feel like the world is coming to an end. This CD, presumably as a result of his production/musical contributions, does an I-would-have-thought impossible thing - combines the clearer and more straightforward (though still bluesy-as-hell) tones of Hammond with the world view and musical vocabulary of Waits, and isn't a mess, or a pale imitation of anything. It's its own glorious, rooted and FUN thing, though still undeniably part of the Waits canon.
If you're a Hammond fan, I imagine you'll love this - Waits' songs are rightly renowned for their lyrics, and the instrumentation is flawless. If you're a Waits fan, never fear! This ain't no stinkin' "tribute album" - it's a living, breathing piece of music that you can play right along with "Heart of Sat Night," "Mule Variations," or whatever your current favorite is.
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