Some artists move with the times, and some let the times move around them. John Hammond belongs to the latter category, having pretty much spent the last four decades honing his rootsy guitar and harmonica style of blues.
In fact, his sound must be so finely honed by now that he could probably turn out perfectly crafted blues numbers whilst conducting a tricky three-point turn in his vintage Ford Crown Vic (his car of choice, judging by this album’s cover).
It must have been a seismic shift for him when a few years ago, he finally decided to get a band together and start using amps and pickups, some thirty years after Bob Dylan went electric. Just around the same time, ironically, when axemen like Eric Clapton had decided to go all MTV Unplugged on us and hail back to the romantic notion of one man and his trusty geetar.
And indeed, that is what this album sounds like in places, which is slightly unfortunate for John Hammond, who is a legend in his own right and by no means a Clapton wannabe. This is a man who made his first recording in 1962, discovered Jimi Hendrix in New York, introduced The Band to Bob Dylan and has played with the likes of John Lee Hooker. You might say that while Clapton was making a few bob with CD-friendly yuppy rock like Behind the Mask all he actually wanted to do was to sound like John Hammond.
And thanks to all that honing, Ready for Love, is a very natural-sounding, earthy affair, mixing old and new blues numbers, (although stylistically you’d be hard pressed to tell which is which). There’s two songs penned by growly-voiced eccentric Tom Waits, as well as the Jagger/Richards-penned Spider and the Fly, but really, it’s all about the trademark Hammond sound. And when the man’s spent over 40 years perfecting it, you know you’re getting the genuine article. Just don’t expect any surprises.