The life of the purist finger guitar player is not an easy one. The potential audience for acoustic finger pickers appears to be a tiny fraction of what it is for those that sing at the same time. At any given time there are only a handful to be found producing commercial releases, that’s one reason I treasure Ross Hammond. He is a Sacramento, California based player who makes his work available on bandcamp and this month releases his first vinyl album Follow Your Heart. This contains nine glorious tunes played on six and 12 string acoustic all of which are infused with the natural reverb of a turn of the century church in Hammond’s home town. Some are played on an acoustic resonator guitar with a circular metal device containing spun metal cones where the hole would normally be, they’re usually called Dobro or National guitars.
The recording is good and clean with minimal polish, presenting a strong image of the instrument with all its dynamic variety intact. The reverb of the building gives it a vibrant immediacy that is very appealing, it’s an inspired choice of locale, a situation that’s instantly clear with the vinyl release. But don’t put this on your list for later, it’s a limited edition (like the CD) and won’t last long after it’s release on Feb 17th.
Hammond’s style is essentially blues based, his playing is more about feel than finesse but it’s hard to fault from a technical perspective. His influences must include Ry Cooder and John Fahey but he brings his own style to everything he plays. Of the tracks collected on Follow Your Heart the stand outs include the title track, a beautifully picked ode to his daughter, and the slide harmonies of ‘How Does a Monkey Write Its Song’. But in truth there isn’t weak tune on this collection, just some great playing from the current standard bearer for a very rare breed.