Ross Hammond has quietly built up quite the discography playing jazz, blues, and folk music on various guitars, either solo or with groups of differing sizes. Here, he combines his steel guitar with the outside saxophone lines of Oliver Lake and the subtle, cerebral drumming of Mike Pride. Even if you are conversant with what each of these individuals is capable of, that would still not prepare you for Our Place On The Wheel, an album of soulful blues with more than a few hints of modernism.
Hammond extracts a steady supply of jangly and twisted notes from his steel, often providing both melodic and rhythmic voices. Lake’s contributions are more punctuated, consisting of short themes and motifs, providing atmosphere and discordance rather than solos per se. Pride’s percussion is perhaps even more unusual, bordering on extended techniques in addition to off-kilter kit-work. The result is an album that, to the casual listener, might not seem all that unconventional. But upon deeper review, Our Place On The Wheel is full of idiosyncrasies and more than a hint of weird Americana. At times it is more bluegrass than blues, and is interspersed with melancholy and darkness. Perhaps most remarkable, but not surprising, is that these three veterans recorded the eight pieces in one 90-minute, live-in-the-studio session.
While very different in sound than other types of music that usually grace these pages, this effort fits in spirit with the honesty and exploration of more overtly avant-garde recordings. Well done indeed.