John Hammond is a raiser of the lost art. He remains the most convincing champion of Delta blues and if some see irony in a young white man sustaining such a distinctly black idiom, Hammond himself has been quite content to powerfully evoke the repertoires of Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Sleepy John Estes and Willie McTell and let their compelling music speak for itself.
At Desperado's last night, Hammond coaxed red-hot anxiety and icy anger from a trio of acoustic guitars and a racked harmonica in an hour-long set that was unrelenting from start to finish. Occasionally augmented by percussive hand slaps and spare, evocative harp, Hammond's guitar work was powerful yet precise, a train that kept rolling down a familiar track, scattering notes and restraints with equal abandon.
In his life-long affair with the music, Hammond has absorbed the essence of acoustic rural blues to such a degree that his black vocal inflections seem just right; in anyone else's throat, they would be affected and suspect. John Hammond captures the bravado, bitter humor and internalized anguish of the blues with such distinct passion that it makes little difference whether it's authentic because it's certainly real.