Wicked Grin

Wicked Grin

5.0 2
by John Hammond Jr.
     
 

While not the oddest couple on the sonic spectrum, the team of roots traditionalist John Hammond and avant-garder Tom Waits is nevertheless not one that most folks would think of forming. Well, shame on "most folks." On this eye-opening collection, which lets Hammond use his old-as-the-hills baritone to shape some of Waits's more intriguing…  See more details below

Overview

While not the oddest couple on the sonic spectrum, the team of roots traditionalist John Hammond and avant-garder Tom Waits is nevertheless not one that most folks would think of forming. Well, shame on "most folks." On this eye-opening collection, which lets Hammond use his old-as-the-hills baritone to shape some of Waits's more intriguing tunes, the two meld as readily as ham 'n' eggs -- or, more to the point, a shot and a beer. At times, Hammond's performance is relatively straightforward, particularly on bleary, barroom-style early tunes like "Heartattack and Vine." But more often, the men establish an uneasy but natural-sounding middle ground, emphasizing the menace of "16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six" and wringing a dust-bowl melancholy from the echoing "Buzz Fledderjohn." Although Waits -- who also produced the disc -- and Hammond spend a fair amount of time dressing the tunes up in unlikely threads (like the south-of-the-border oompah of "Jockey Full of Bourbon"), there's never a sense that anyone's consciously trying to weird out the listener. And thanks to the smoldering playing of guests like keyboardist Augie Meyers (best known as a Texas Tornado) and harmonica wizard Charlie Musselwhite, just about every note resonates with earthy brilliance.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Hal Horowitz
After 35 years into a career that spans 35 albums recorded for seven labels, you'd think John Hammond might get a little complacent. Thankfully the opposite is true, as 2001's Wicked Grin is the artist's most daring musical departure and arguably greatest achievement to date. Mining the rich Tom Waits catalog for 12 of its 13 tracks (the closing is a traditional gospel tune) and bringing Waits himself along as producer has resulted in a stunning collection that stands as one of the best in Hammond's bulging catalog. Never a songwriter, the singer/guitarist/harmonica bluesman has maintained a knack for picking top-notch material from the rich blues tradition without resorting to the hoary, over-covered classics of the genre. It's that quality that transforms these tunes into Hammond songs, regardless of their origin. His history of working with exceptional session musicians is also legendary, and this album's band, which features Doug Sahm sideman Augie Meyers on keyboards, harmonica wiz Charlie Musselwhite, longtime Waits associate Larry Taylor on bass, and Waits himself poking around on various songs, is perfect for the spooky, swampy feel he effortlessly conjures here. Choosing from a wide variety of Waits' material, Hammond infuses these unusual tracks with a bluesman's spirit and a crackling energy that practically reinvents the songs, instilling them with an ominous, rhythmic swampy feel. The producer contributes two new tracks ("2:19" and "Fannin' Street," the latter is the album's only acoustic cut) that maintain the creepy but upbeat voodoo spirit that trickles and twists throughout. Hammond sings with a renewed spirit, adding a smoother but no less intense edge than Waits' typical rusty razor blade soaked whisky growl. With his dusky croon and idiosyncratic delivery, Hammond tears into this material with relish, spitting out the often offbeat, stream of consciousness lyrics as if he wrote them himself. Only the slow, ambling blues of "Murder in the Red Barn" would comfortably slot into Hammond's existing oeuvre; the remainder push the bluesman into previously uncharted territory with results that reveal fascinating layers of his own interpretive abilities. An experiment whose success will hopefully yield another volume, this partnership of John Hammond and Tom Waits brings out the best in both artists' substantial talents.
Billboard
...a proposition that fulfills its promise wonderfully...Hammond not only taps into these fever dreams, he imprints his own rural-minded mark

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Product Details

Release Date:
03/13/2001
Label:
Virgin Records Us
UPC:
0724385076428
catalogNumber:
50764
Rank:
41981

Related Subjects

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Hammond   Primary Artist
Charlie Musselwhite   Harp
Tom Waits   Guitar,Hand Clapping
Augie Meyers   Piano,Accordion,Hammond Organ,Electric Piano,Hand Clapping,Wurlitzer
Larry Taylor   Bass
Oz Fritz   Hand Clapping
Stephen Hodges   Percussion,Drums,Hand Clapping
Ralph Patlan   Hand Clapping
Gene Cornelius   Hand Clapping

Technical Credits

Tom Waits   Producer
Kathleen Brennan   Concept
T Bone Burnett   Liner Notes
Oz Fritz   Engineer
Huddie Ledbetter   Composer
Tom Recchion   Art Direction
Jeff Dunas   Cover Art

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Wicked Grin 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Hammond has the perfect voice to sing Tom Waits. This is a truly remarkable album, for anyone, but particularly for a Tom Waits fan. Standout cuts are 2:19, Heartattack and Vine, Till The Money Runs Out, and the final cut, I've Been Changed. A must!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the greatest albums I have had the pleasure to purchase. Any fan of soulful blues or good song writing will find the blend of Hammond and Waits to be a genius one. Bought it for Fannin Street, but I listen all the way through as often as not. Beautiful.