- John Hammond
For anyone who's ever doubted that blues can cross the color line, John Hammond is the ideal myth-buster. Once a young buck heralding the '60s folk and blues revival, alongside the likes of urban stylists Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, Hammond developed into a bona fide master of country blues. Now, he's perhaps the genre's most powerful performer. The 59-year-old singer-guitarist is a walking catalog of early blues classics, delivering gems from Robert Johnson, Li'l Son Jackson, and a score of others, with an intensity and authority that defy any imagined cultural barrier.
While he has frequently recorded (and been critically praised) over the past four decades with such collaborators as Duane Allman and Dr. John, Hammond's highest-profile release to date is his celebrated 2001 pairing with Tom Waits, Wicked Grin. Hammond's deep-baritone growl proved a splendid vehicle for Waits's seedy, seductive imagery. Grin's success propelled Hammond around the globe for 18 months of touring with a band in tow and wide media exposure. Perhaps to capitalize on his growing audience, this year's Ready for Love has Hammond once again reaching beyond blues. The disc sports country gems from George Jones and Freddie Hart, references Billie Holiday and the Stones, and includes, not surprisingly, a couple of Waits tunes. While he's sure to draw from his recent stash on stage, a big dose of the old stuff is still a good bet.