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Ken Hamm

Ken Hamm.  Photo by Lynn ThompsonKen Hamm is white, Canadian and unassuming by nature. This has served to hide a fact known for 25 years by audiences in the small-town bars and coffeehouses of Western Canada: Ken Hamm is one of the best living performers of delta and country blues. No guff. Hamm plays with such virtuosity, drive, passion and affection that you can almost see the ghosts of Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt shaking their heads and grinning. "Ken Hamm", says Canadian guitarist Rick Bockner, "ought to give thumb lessons."

I am no expert, but it seems to me that there are more than a few players around who can, like Hamm, play a credible version of a Robert Johnson tune. But Hamm makes the form his own. Though still firmly rooted in accoustic blues, he throws in half a lifetime of other influences, from tree-planter funk to jazz-club sixths and ninths. Hamm has packed the blues off to the fishing towns and logging shows of the BC coast. The rollicking, gritty songs born of this union give a taste of west coast working life as unshakable as a fish scale. Ken's underground "hit", Fishing Grounds stands with Ian Tyson's Summer Wages and Gordon Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain on the shortlist of the best Canadian work songs.

Unfortunately, until now Hamm's recordings have reflected their low budgets. But last year he finally went into a pukkah studio (Vancouver's Blue Wave) with one of Canada's best production teams: producer Pat Coleman (the jazz guitarist) and engineer Perry Barrett. Fresh (if that is the word) off the road, Hamm's band feels comfortable as an old boot. As on stage, the arrangements centre on the quirky sound of twin slide guitars (the second played by Canadian dobro maven, Doug Cox). For the recording, Hamm and Coleman added major-league sidemen like mandolin player John Reischman and drummer Buff Allen. The result, Eagle Rock Road, is the album Ken Hamm and his music have long deserved. Two cuts from Eagle Rock Road appear on Old Folksinger's Pick, the cassette.

Eagle Rock Road (North Track Records)

distributed by Festival Distribution
Vancouver, BC
toll free phone: 1-800-633-8282

Ken Hamm
phone: 250-722-2460
fax: 250-722-2400

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