Tom Waits hasn't opened for John Hammond Jr. since a 1974 gig in Arizona. They've helped each other out a couple of times since thenWaits gave "No One Can Forgive Me But My Baby" to Hammond for 1992's Got Love If You Want It, and Hammond laid down some harp on "Pony" for Waits' 1999 Mule Variations.
The two entered a full-fledged partnership for Hammond's Wicked Grin, due March 13, with the bluesman covering 11 Waits-penned tunes. In a statement issued by his label, Hammond who's always combined a healthy reverence for classic Delta blues stylings with the realization that the music isn't a museum piece called the songs "the most evocative, imagistic, incredible material I've ever recorded."
The album features such Waits classics as "Heart Attack and Vine," "16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six" and "Jockey Full of Bourbon," as well as a new song Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan wrote called "Fannin Street"a song Hammond sings "like Hank Williams," according to a statement Waits issued.
The only non-Waits song on the disc is the traditional gospel tune "I Know I've Been Changed," which features Waits' rhythm guitar and voice.
Other musicians on the album include Augie Meyers, who played bass on Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind, and harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite.
Wicked Grin is the 28th album of the 58-year-old Hammond's nearly 40-year career, though he's contributed to dozens of compilations and other artists' discs, including Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and Stevie Ray Vaughan's Soul to Soul (1985).