The Curse Of K.K.Hammond – Death Roll Blues: Album Review

Authentic slide and snaking blues as the dirty South comes to bite – in the comfort of your living room.

Release Date: 31st March 2023

Label: Independent

Format: digital / CD / vinyl (check the options here)

The combination of no management and no label may sound perversely contrary, but not so for K.K.Hammond. With a committed DIY ethic and obsession with what falls under the wide umbrella of old American Blues, she’s built a genuinely underground following. Quite a healthy one too, such is her nouse in covering Metallica and Nirvana and harnessing the power of social media.

From the reptile-strewn swamps of the deep South via a remote farm in the woods of Buckinghamshire, her love affair with Resonator guitars ensures that we’re doused with plenty of organic and rustic vibes, remaining true to the legacy while dipping a toe into the present. The area of the Venn diagram where Memphis Minnie and Charlie Patton merge with Nick Cave and Tom Waits.

The wonderful album art sets the scene. There she sits in a wooden vessel, armed with the ever-present Resonator, looking for all the world like she’s readying for a cruise on the River Styx. Yet with the threatening presence of a local swamp resident (he/she/they – no gender specified – is/are on the reverse), it’s a brooding and ominous, gloriously dense setting, cast in a lamplit green glow.

Swamp Thing makes for a brief sonic scene setting (repeated in a final Return to form an endless loop) as we roll into the title track where the duet with David & The Devil, reignites the partnership of the #1 iTunes Blues chart topper, The Ballad Of Lampshade Ed. The first evidence of what sets Death Roll Blues apart is, instead of the grizzled and weary, whisky fuelled voice of the Delta Bluesman and his followers, we get the refined tones of K.K. Hammond. It might appear seemingly at odds with the material and the style. However, the content is more than chilling – listen to ‘Til Death as she reveals her vicious plan while crooning over a body that’s “looking kinda stupid with that hatchet in your head” as the slide guitar adds a bizarre Hawaiian sway. A mini Netflix series of song/story cameos where the Blues and the Devil cross paths, soundtracked by Death Roll Blues, surely beckons.

Excelling in creating an aching misery, Anhedonia almost drifts into a sing-song “Mama says that I was never happy…” refrain while the effect makes its way to join hands with some Blues rapping on Mister Apology. The latter based on the tale of Allan Bridge and his hotline for criminals to unburden themselves in anonymous confession and what would a Blues album be without some confessional? If wiping the slate were ever that simple.

And while she’s singing about how the Bone Collector coming your way, a lullaby guaranteed to evoke nightmares. An iron fist in a velvet glove sort of cautionary tale. “He’ll plunge his wicked hands into your grave – What’s left of you he’ll crush up to be sold” (as an aphrodisiac apparently…) delivered with a warming motherly smile that you know isn’t genuine. What lies beneath…beware the sound of hellhounds on your trail.

Dressed for a trip down South naturally, Memento Mori concludes proceedings with a reminder, as the title says, of life’s one certainty – death. How we’re all going to meet the same end. The chillingly slow stroll through the thoughts of mortality – “Can I have an extension – maybe just this weekend?” A genuine plea or tongue-in-cheek? Remarks delivered with whispered vocal lines, mirroring the weariness in facing up to the inevitability. Packing for the final journey, all K.K. needs is a guitar, boots and hat. No fear, just curiosity.

Raising a vision of hell that’s less of the intensely burning flames of purgatory and more of the marriage between pain and pleasure. Death Roll Blues is an evocative and stark soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the atmosphere of a creaking, reptile-strewn wilderness. The dirty South comes to the comfort of your living room.

K.K. Hammond online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YoutubeSoundcloud

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