Saturday, January 30, 2010
Blues legend John Hammond
John Hammond, Armstrong Hall, Colorado College, 1/29/2010
"Two degrees of separation." That thought crossed my mind shaking hands with John Hammond Friday night at Colorado College. Here's a man that is one of only 3 or 4 white blues players who is still touring and making albums who was there at the beginning of the 60's blues music revival. You may get to see him Sunday night on television if you watch the 2010 Grammy Awards - his latest (33rd) album "Rough & Tough" (Chesky Records/Jan 2009) is nominated for "Best Traditional Blues Album".
It's hard not to talk about the past when talking about John Hammond. His style is very traditional in the country or delta blues vein - characterized by the use of acoustic slide guitar or dobro and harmonica. And while he may channel blues legends like Robert Johnson and Son House, Hammonds gritty down and dirty vocals while demonstrating a total mastery of his instrument brings his own flavor to traditional and original work.
John Hammond opened his solo 90 minute set with "I'm Just A Fool", a mid tempo 12-bar blues shuffle with crazy riffs and licks alternating vocals and harmonica with ad-libbed harmonics on the guitar. He followed this up with his song "Heartache Blues" done in a slower traditional style throwing in his own lead riffs during the versus and blowing the harp with what I swear sounded like multiple single lead notes over consonant drone base notes on the harmonica - it was amazing work.
Hammond finished the night with Son House's "Preachin' Blues" and left the stage to the audience standing and applauding for 5 minutes. An amazing performance by one of what may be the last great troubadours in American blues history.