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John Hammond: Wicked Grin

Longtime delta blues interpreter John Hammond tackles the music of Tom Waits on Wicked Grin (Pointblank/Virgin Records 7087 6 16107; 55:59). Produced by Waits himself, it includes gritty takes on such Waitsian gems as “2:19,” “Heart Attack and Vine,” “Jockey Full of Bourbon” and “Big Black Mariah.” Harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite makes a guest appearance on the haunting “Clap Hands” and “Get Behind the Mule.” Auggie Meyers’ organ, accordion and cheesy electric piano work, particularly effective on the mysterioso “Shore Leave,” is tailor-made to fit Waits’ wonderfully eccentric vision. The composer adds some croaking vocal accompaniment on the closer, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which plays like a revival meeting at a Bowery rescue mission in the Damon Runyan recesses of Waits’ cartoon mind. A potent brew and a great synthesis of two unique artists.

Originally Published