Born out of the blues revival of the early '60s, John Hammond Jr. has defied stereotypes from Day One. You know, like when he said he wanted to play the blues and someone sharply replied, "Boy, you white." Then came Day Two, when someone else said, "Boy, you from the Big Apple. The blues is a Southern thing." On Day Three, though, folks must've heard Hammond perform, 'cause they dubbed him a "white Robert Johnson." Why any of this matters is a mystery, since every blues great will tell you the blues ain't a black or Southern thing. It's a way-down-in-your-soul thing. Hammond has always felt it way down deep, which is probably why he's spent 40-plus years releasing more than 30 albums. His latest, In Your Arms Again, might not pack the punch of his 2001 album of Tom Waits covers, Wicked Grin, but its stripped-down roadhouse sound is as close to live as studio recordings get. -- Cole Haddon
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