A legitimate treasure of American roots music, John Hammond has made other people's songs his own during his decades-long career. On his latest venture, IN YOUR ARMS AGAIN, Hammond once again takes up the pen with the album's title track and Come To Find Out.
The veteran singer/guitarist returns to his roots with a stripped-down trio following the textural experiments of 2003's David Hidalgo-produced Ready for Love and his heralded 2001 collection of Tom Waits songs, Wicked Grin. Every choked note and moaning phrase of his voice rings with total commitment to numbers made famous by Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, and Bob Dylan, including a version of Wolf's "Evil" that gets extra menace from Stephen Hodges's thunderous, impulsive drumming. That's how it should be. For the last 42 years, Hammond's made his career as an energetic interpreter of songs rather than as a writer. Nevertheless, the tunes he penned for this set--the title cut and "Come to Find Out"--fit comfortably among the classics. They explore love and lamentation in acoustic settings using Hammond's voice, guitar, and harmonica; Marty Ballou's upright bass; and Hodges's rim-slapped snare to kick up Delta dust. Fans of Hammond's guitar, muted on his other recent releases, will dig his versatile six-stringing--especially his laid-back virtuosity on slide acoustic and resonator guitars. --Ted Drozdowski