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John Hammond 

In Your Arms Again (Back Porch)

John Hammond is well known as a blues interpreter -- one of the very best of his generation. He's less well known as a songwriter, but as In Your Arms Again indicates, that's slowly beginning to change.

Hammond's last release, 2003's Ready for Love, featured his very first original track, "Slick Crown Vic." His new disc doubles that output with a pair of tunes that sit comfortably alongside Hammond's typically well-selected covers. If he ends up writing the blues as consistently as he plays 'em, it'll be the crowning achievement for one of the most impressive artists in the genre.

Besides the originals here, Hammond predictably delivers fresh takes on the classics, providing Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" with a simmering country retrofit and intensifying the distinctive rhythms embodied in Howlin' Wolf's "Evil." Since Wicked Grin, his 2001 collaboration with Tom Waits, Hammond has settled into a smoky, acoustic-fronted combo approach, which has provided his recent output with something of a signature sound. His new disc can only add to his enlarged post-Grin fan base.

More by Duane Verh

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