John Hammond has been around for so long it’s easy to take him for granted. Maybe because his is primarily an interpretive talent - this set opens with what might be his only original song (but don't quote me). Hammond is perhaps not the greatest blues singer on the scene, but what he lacks in technique he more than makes up for with his gutsy, (Muddy Waters) growl-blessed, distinctive tone - he possesses an unforced soulfulness that’s hard to argue with, and a sincere down-home-type quality that makes you feel you could be listening to him playing on a back porch or in a bar that holds no more than 60 people.Ready For Love
has a healthy variety of songs, a mix that places it a few notches above Your Typical Blues Album: a couple of Tom Waits’ songs, some 50s R&B ("Money Honey"), an obscure early Rolling Stones song given the classic Chicago treatment ("Spider and the Fly"), a jazz ballad standard ("Comes Love" gets some needed grit) and a few blues-enriched country nuggets, honky tonk division (George Jones’ "Just One More" and "Color of the Blues"). The production is delicious: it maintains a raw, dark but not bleak tone, vivacious without ever coming across as sloppy. Hammond and band sizzle whilst maintaining a tantalizing sense of restraint - no wasted or superfluous notes here. The only downside is Hammond’s voice on the country tunes - shucks, he’s just not a crooner, folks - but the band’s élan redeems them. A darn good modern blues record, and a fine late-nite companion, too.