I like it when an album title tells you exactly what you’re going to get. With a title like Death Roll Blues you know that it won’t be clapping along and joining the sing-a-long choruses. Instead what you get is an incredible collection of modern blues inspired by old-time Delta and Appalachian roots musicians, presented with slide steel and a Gothic overlay. K K Hammond is a self-confessed hermit who’s spent her time travelling the back roads and by-ways of both the USA and England, absorbing stories and feelings that she pours into her music and what’s come from it is an impressive début album.
Top and tailing the album ‘Swamp Thing’ and ‘Swamp Thing Returns’ start as they mean to go on. There’s a short intro of bullfrogs and cicadas before the steady almost ponderous beat of steel guitar kicks in to the title track and K K’s honeyed voice takes you deep into the bayous of the deep south, full of Cottonmouths and Spanish moss. This is the only track on the album not totally written, performed and recorded by K K Hammond, featuring David Hick. As we revisit the swamp at the end of the album the chorus is joined by the rumbling bellow of the ‘gators and a coyote which is, hopefully, in the distance.
‘What’s The Weatherman Done?’ is another slide steel blues opening with a roll of thunder to set the atmosphere. K K’s voice on this one has a echo to it, giving a real old-time feel that works so well. ‘Anhedonia’, a term used in psychopathology to describe the reduced ability to experience pleasure, starts with a line that sums up the album “This world is a cold and cynical place” before exploring the idea that we all keep our heads down and do as we’re told. It’s as close as the album gets to a protest song, an outcry against those who want to control our lives with promises of a better future to come. It does emphasise something about this album as well, in that it can be listened to for the music but paying attention to the words will give you so much more.
As a début album this sets a very high bar, showing that K K Hammond is a writer of quality who brings both atmosphere and message to her work. Delta blues continues to be an inspiration to modern musicians and Death Roll Blues shows why that is. It’s music that has a human resonance to it which isn’t comfortable but causes a reaction that’s captured so well here.
Death Roll Blues will be officially released on all platforms on March 31st 2023 as downloads. All vinyl copies, and most CDs, have already been snapped up on pre-order so that should give a clue to the quality on offer.
Artist’s website: https://thecurseofkkhammond.com/
‘Death Roll Blues’ – official video:
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