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Breathing the blues

Covering Tom Waits takes some serious fortitude. It also takes some serious chops. John Hammond has both, in abundance.

Hammond knows the blues inside and out, of course. He emerged in the early '60s as a Caucasian descendant of African-American Delta blues, and he has been perfecting his abilities in that area ever since.

This by itself would not guarantee that, when he came to the material of the aforementioned Waits in order to record a full album of the man's songs (2001's "Wicked Grin"), he'd be able to bring anything new to the table. After all, Waits is so idiosyncratic, so much a master of the universe he has created for himself, that he doesn't really invite cover versions of his songs. Hammond totally nailed it, however, because he knew that beneath the Kurt Weill dark opera and boozy beer-hall strut, Waits was really an awful lot like Howlin' Wolf -- and even Louis Armstrong. Hammond brought this side of Waits to the fore and received his friend's blessings for his efforts.

Finding the core of blues in everything is one of Hammond's greatest gifts. It's a gift that has helped him stay wholly relevant when so many other blues musicians appear tired, trite and hell-bent on treading the same old ground over and over again. Hammond proved with his most recent effort, "Push Comes to Shove," that the blues is not a museum piece for him, but a living, breathing part of the present. Produced by G. Love, the record is funkier than all get-out, raw and visceral like a Howlin' Wolf recording, and pretty much ageless. At 60, Hammond is still on fire.

Hammond brings his "Push Comes to Shove" tour to the Tralf (622 Main St.) at 8 p.m. Thursday. Ticketmaster or the Tralf box office will help with tickets.


Sunday guitars

For several months now, the Glen Park Tavern (5507 Main St., Williamsville) has been offering Sunday afternoon sessions featuring the likes of Jim Wynne & Friends, Gretchen Schulz and the Irish sessions ensemble. A cool, laid-back vibe pervades these afternoon gigs, which kick off around 2 p.m. and kick it in the head in time to be home for the evening news. This week, Josh Assad and Stuart Fuchs, the guitar duo at the heart of gypsy jazz outfit Babik, will arrive at the GPT for the afternoon gig.


Gig picks

First, a heads up. The Framing Hanley gig scheduled to take place at Club Diablo next Friday has been moved to the Tralf. His Name was Yesterday and Missing Karma will still open, but tickets purchased for Club Diablo will not be honored at the Tralf. Contact either club for more information on the move.

On Wednesday, Cincinnati's Pomegranates will be joined by the Thermidors and the Magi Chippie inside Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.), beginning at 7 p.m. The same club presents the Creepshow, the Rabies, the Lower Town Trio and the Inebriates, beginning at 7 p.m Thursday.

Rhino's (3700 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park) has the Trolls at 10 tonight and the Dave Constantino Band at 8 p.m. Thursday.


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