Hard as it may be to believe, John Hammond has been performing for over 40 years and is widely known as one of the best interpreters of American roots music, particularly the blues. He was there in the ’60s for the first blues renaissance, which helped to resurrect the careers of several bluesmen such as Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, and Son House.
In addition, he’s collaborated, either on stage or in the studio, with artists like John Lee Hooker, Duane Allman, The Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dr. John, Pop Staples, Jimi Hendrix, and Michael Bloomfield.
Though he performed primarily as a solo act for most of his career, playing acoustic guitar and harmonica unaccompanied, Hammond’s most recent efforts have included covers of songs by George Jones, Tom Waits, and even the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards team, along with his usual interpretations of blues classics. He has also fronted a band on some of these albums and even showed great prowess on electric guitar.
With his second release for Back Porch Records, In Your Arms Again, Hammond returns his focus to the blues with sparkling covers of songs by Bukka White (“Jitterbug Swing”), Ray Charles (“I’ve Got A Woman,” “Fool For You”), Howlin’ Wolf (“I’m Leaving You,” “Moaning For My Baby“), Percy Mayfield (“My Baby’s Gone”), John Lee Hooker (“Serve You Right To Suffer”), Willie Dixon (“Evil”), and Jimmy Reed (“You Got Me Cryin’”). There’s also a fine reading of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.”
On Hammond’s previous album, Ready For Love, he recorded his first original composition. On In Your Arms Again, he features two more originals, “In Your Arms Again” and “Come To Find Out.” Both songs are excellent fits with the rest of the material here and one hopes Hammond will eventually release a complete album of original compositions if all his material is this strong.
Hammond’s excellent guitar skills are present on In Your Arms Again, as he plays electric and acoustic guitar, along with some great slide. His vocals continue to have that gritty, Delta feel as well.
His supporting musicians are the same as on Ready For Love; Marty Mallou on bass and Stephen Hodges on percussion. Produced by Hammond and his wife, Marla, the disc was recorded at Blue Heaven Studios and sounds great.
In a career now entering it’s fifth decade, it’s safe to say that John Hammond has never released a bad album. In Your Arms Again continues that streak.
--- Graham Clarke
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