John Hammond at Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA
John Hammond on October 10, 2015
It has been said that John Hammond is a great force of nature and sounds like a big train coming. This is very true. His live show exhibited that as well as his flip side.
Hammond's stage presence is that of a true gentleman. Speaking quietly, just slightly above a whisper, he tells riveting stories that you might expect to hear from a legendary bluesman. The audience was so into hearing him speak, you could hear a pin drop. Hammond would tell a story about time with Michael Bloomfield, Tom Waits, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, or many of the other blues greats, and the story would lead into a song, usually one of theirs. Then he would totally rip it up. He even told how Hoyt Axton and his Martin D45 helped him get his first gig in Los Angeles.
Hammond has been out there recording and playing live for over 50 years. He has created a niche for himself that is completely his own: the solo guitar man, harmonica slung in a rack around his neck, reinterpreting classic blues songs from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. And boy does he sound great doing just that.
His guitar playing is superb. Using both an acoustic and a vintage National Reso-Phonic guitar, his fingering as well as his slide work is incredible. His harmonica work is there with the best blues harmonica playing I have ever heard. Hammond has been described as a white Robert Johnson. He certainly has the voice and power and the skill to carry off playing the blues of and along with the greatest. Close your eyes and you might think you are in the Mississippi Delta. (Unless of course he's playing some old Chicago blues.)
I am not going to go into his playlist because anything can happen at a John Hammond concert, as he selects tunes from his vast repertoire like buckets of water from a well. Okay, I stole that line but it is true. Black, white, Delta, Chicago, Hendrix, Clapton, even Philly’s own G Love ... Hammond makes it happen with feeling.
You might say he is always on tour so check out his schedule. If you like the blues, John Hammond is one of the really great artists singing and playing today.
- Mark J. Smith