It only seems like John Hammond has been around since the days of Robert Johnson. After 35 years in the blues business and dozens of albums, Hammond continues to put out vibrant, high-quality blues. The latest for Pointblank, Long As I Have You, presents this fine performer in more of a hard-drivin' Chicago blues style.
On most of the cuts Hammond is able to pour all of his energy into his vocals, as instrumental backing is provided by the California band Little Charlie and the Nightcats. This combination works well in two ways. Hammond sings his you know what off, and Nightcats Rick Estrin and Charlie Baty are able to focus their total energy on their respective instruments. Pianist Steve Lucky was also added to the band for these sessions.
The disc begins with an excellent version of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Don't Start Me Talkin." Estrin cuts loose on several terrific harmonica breaks here, something he doesn't always get to do within the framework of the Nightcats' normal novelty-laden blues style.
Baty gets his chance in the spotlight on Eddie Taylor's "Lookin' For Trouble" and T-Bone's "I'm Gonna Find My Baby," as he contributes some extremely tasty guitar licks to both numbers.
Another Sonny Boy tune, "Sad To Be Alone," is a great slow blues featuring more stellar instrumental accompaniment from Estrin and Baty, nicely complementing Hammond's emotionally-charged vocals.
Little Walter fans will take a peak at the liner notes to see if the original Aces were brought back to play behind Hammond on "Everything's Gonna Be Alright." The Nightcats truly capture that 1950's Chicago sound on this song.
Hammond finally gets to play the guitar on the final three cuts, with three acoustic numbers backed only by Washboard Chaz Leary.
It would be hard to pick a favorite album from John Hammond's vast catalog, but Long As I Have You certainly has to rank in the top ten.
- Bill Mitchell
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