Hammond - In Your Arms Again (Electric
Review by David
his time with Vanguard and then Pointblank records in the 90s, In
Your Arms Again is John Hammond’s second album since the acclaimed
Wicked Grin (2001) and the follow up to Ready For Love (2003). It
represents another subtle shift in his long career – some
29 albums to date - but, as the title would suggest, it is a more
intimate and seemingly heartfelt affair than the last few records.
It was produced by Oz Fritz and recorded at the Blue Heaven Studio
in Kansas - an old gothic-style former church now used as a concert
venue and recording studio.
Kicking off with the runaway mine cart of Bukka White’s Jitterbug
Swing, John beats and slides over the incessant rhythm provided
by Marty Ballou and Steven Hodges on double bass and drums (who
are superb throughout the whole album). It rumbles along with the
authority we’ve come to expect from man who’s spent
years on the road and worked with the likes of John Lee Hooker,
JJ Cale, Duke Robillard, Tom Waits, David Hidalgo and Charlie Musselwhite.
There’s no let up before the first of the album’s two
Ray Charles tracks; I Got A Woman maintains the original’s
driving church rhythm but with clapping hands and guitar rather
than piano; and Fool For You stays up late and burns it down low
with some great tactile electric guitar. They’re fine examples
of Hammond’s ability to inhabit a song without pastiche or
pretence and are a nice nod to the late, great master.
Howlin’ Wolf tunes can topple all but the most sure-footed,
but Hammond’s heavyweight versions of Evil (Is Goin’
On), I’m leaving You and Moanin’ For My Baby hang from
Steven Hodges’ drums and really lock down on the harmonica
breaks. The harp and wiry guitar evoke Burnett and Sumlin but they
really showcase the core production values that have made Hammond’s
recent output exemplary: lush and natural but not slick. It’s
gritty but not low-fi.
Serves You Right To Suffer curiously juxtaposes acoustic guitar
with what sounds like a fuzzed-up bass set back in the mix. It’s
a subtle effect but really works in lieu of piano or organ yet doesn’t
sound out of place.
The title track and Come To Find Out are both original compositions
and fit perfectly with the rest of the album; the latter is a lyrically
impressive acoustic blues with some ghostly harp drifting in and
out. Clearly, he’s more comfortable as a writer to include
his own work alongside those he admires, so maybe we’ll be
treated to a whole album of original material one day.