On stage, John Hammond is a big, stomping, grimacing presence with a sound that’s equally energetic. This concert, recorded in 2013 at Chan’s Fine Oriental Dining — a restaurant and performance space in Woonsocket, Rhode Island — shows Hammond has lost none of that trademark energy now that he’s in his early 70s. His voice has taken on a burliness and something of a screech in the upper register, qualities that make this son of legendary record producer John Hammond sound even more impassioned. Hammond’s guitar playing is quick, dense, and orchestral, and his mouth harp adds both harmonic and percussive interest at interludes with the lyric. In true Hammond style, Timeless is a compendium of music from progressive generations of musicians: Sleepy John Estes, Walter Jacobs, Skip James, Chuck Berry, and Tom Waits. He emphasizes the innocence in country yodeler Cliff Carlisle’s otherwise naughty “That Nasty Swing” and puts a mournful swing to Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon.” When he sings Eddie Taylor’s “Looking for Trouble,” he convinces you he’ll find it. His own contribution, “Heartache Blues,” in which his harmonica becomes a second voice, embraces familiar laments (“I don’t want no woman who don’t want me”) inside an array of traditional styles. The disc’s audio is a tiny bit thin — a problem when recording voice and rack harmonica in the same microphone — but it’s still a valuable document from this contemporary master of solo acoustic blues.
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