Mixed bag of blues

Rick Hammond Blues Band

The Rick Hammond Blues Band, from left, is Scott Christiansen, Stevie D., Rick Hammond, Brock O’Lee and Melanie Hammond.

The Rick Hammond Blues Band, from left, is Scott Christiansen, Stevie D., Rick Hammond, Brock O’Lee and Melanie Hammond.

Photo By David Robert

The Rick Hammond Blues Band plays Jan. 12 at Davidsons Distillery, 275 E. Fourth St. Call 324-1917 for more information.

The artists in the Rick Hammond Blues Band don’t like to get tied down to one musical style. Blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll covers and rhythm and blues are all on the menu.

“It’s not just stuff you’d hear in a cotton field,” says vocalist, songwriter and guitar player Rick Hammond. “We play mostly obscure blues or stuff I write.”

It’s certainly different. The Rick Hammond band is constantly experimenting and toying with sound. The results range from very good to simply terrible. The CD I sampled, Good Natured Bad Boys, went from the cheesiest of poorly executed clichés to spine-tingling trips into musical introspection.

“Sun Valley Romance,” for example, sounds like Hank Williams on meth. My favorite lyric from this disaster combines a raunchy image with third-grade vocabulary: “Her legs are shiny, I reach out and touch her hiney.”

However, five songs earlier on the same CD, the band hits an absolute home run with “Happy Too.” The lyrics are classic blues, the electric guitar spits out awesome riffs, and the prominent harmonica is well integrated.

The entire CD follows this path. “Let Me Come Home” combines weird voice noises and strange lyrics with an awesome grooving rhythm. “Mist” has a cool menacing sound reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield, while “C.O.T.” is an awkward combination of generic musical conventions.

The band is clearly skilled, and the variety is refreshing, but the lyrics are generally sub par, and the vocals could be better. However, since the Good Natured Bad Boy album dropped, the band brought in Rick’s daughter to sing.

Melanie Hammond, an attractive woman with a bubbly personality, got her love of music from the family.

“I remember [Rick’s band] practicing all the time,” she says. “I’ve been singing since before I could talk.”

Rick has been playing guitar for 43 years. He first became interested in guitar after watching his grandparents singing and playing guitar before family dinners.

“I never took lessons,” he says. “I learned by watching other people.”

As a teenager, Rick took inspiration from the psychedelic gods of ‘70s rock. Later, he got back into the blues for its greater flexibility.

“I love to make (the blues) rock, and I love to play 10-minute solos,” he says.

Bassist Scott Christiansen, who sells guns at his day job, says he fell into the band through a mutual friend. A veteran of 30 years playing everything from reggae to heavy metal, Christiansen says he settled on blues because he’s no longer a young man.

“Blues has a timeless quality to it,” he says. “You can get too old for rock but not for blues.”

Drummer Brock O’Lee, a heavily bearded, eccentric-looking man, says he relishes his role as band metronome. He makes the rhythm section the best part of the band.

“I think you have to have some natural inclination to play drums, but you really need to dig drums,” O’Lee said. “Drummers are like the backbone.”

Stevie D. primarily plays harmonica. A solid-looking guy who likes to jaw, Stevie D. takes his inspiration from Lee Oskar, the harmonica player from War. That influence is clear as he pops through his songs with a lively energy.

The Rick Hammond Blues Band is a mixed bag. They’ve got several interesting sounds, their instrumental stuff is generally excellent, and they’ve got a new soul singer. But like a chainsaw juggler, the miss in their hit-or-miss is pretty ugly.