Pointblank – 2001 – 55 minutes

Choosing to do an album of Tom Waits' covers is a surefire way to make a very long list of enemies in a very short space of time, but blues veteran Hammond plays the bizarre masterstroke of getting the man himself to produce and ride shotgun on every track. Waits has been friends with Hammond since he supported him back in 1974, but rather than apply his rusty sensibilities to someone else's style, Waits gives the album a loose, easy sound - more backroom than backalley.

Taking in songs from 1980's 'Heartattack And Vine' right up to the triumphant 1999 comeback album 'Mule Variations', Hammond shines up the originals until he lives in every one, acting like a messenger between Waits and the bluesmen beyond the grave. Only 'Shore Leave' suffers (sounding like the theme song for a beer ad where a businessman with stubble meets a sweaty woman in a sleeveless top) but even that is brilliantly offset by the inclusion of two new Waits' songs: the low-slung so long of '2:19' and the weepy warning of 'Fannin Street'.

'Wicked Grin' finds Hammond in the form of his life and sounding every bit as redeemed as the gospel groove of closing track 'I Know I've Been Changed'. Listen and you'll find that Hammond and his inspiration aren't the only ones with smiles on their faces.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: 2:19 – Heartattack And Vine – Clap Hands – 'Til The Money Runs Out – 16 Shells >From A Thirty-Ought Six – Buzz Fledderjohn – Get Behind The Mule – Shore Leave – Fannin Street – Jockey Full Of Bourbon – Big Black Mariah – Murder In The Red Barn – I Know I've Been Changed