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Buddy Guy

Rhythm & Blues


RCA / Silvertone
ww.buddyguy.net

Let’s get to the point, listeners – how many popular recording artists in their mid-Seventies now can you name who can attack a song and bring it to life as strongly and as creatively as they did in their twenties?   Because make no mistake , these new recordings for Silvertone are as fiery as anything Buddy Guy cut with the late great Jnr Wells for Vanguard in the Sixties…I know guitar players in their early thirties now who revere the work of Guy and find him an inspiration. Famously, in the late Sixties, James Marshall Hendrix tipped his fedora to Buddy as probably his own greatest inspiration. I doubt if anyone of Guy’s vintage could make a celebratory record – a double-set, to boot – that would outshoot this new collection. This is not to say that any new ground is broken on these recordings but they do support the view of many that  Buddy Guy IS and deserves to be known as a King Of The Blues. I once saw him play a duo gig with Wells in London and though the promoter had been perhaps over-generous with the hospitality before the show, it didn’t take but a couple of songs for the pair to display their grip of sharp soulful music and dry humour.

I have many favourite Guy albums and songs but the ‘Buddy & Jnr Play The Blues’ set for Atlantic is a favourite as it is varied and has the killer cut ‘Man of Many Words’, which has a batch of fluid rattling guitar runs by Guy that are frantic and borderline crazy, still sounding exhilarating many years on  ; here on the ‘Rhythm’ disc of the set there is plenty of sharp axework and once the crisp rhythm guitar chunks into opener ‘Best In Town’ and Hammond and horns spread the sound, Guy lurches into action with a biting and very Jimi wah sound, reminiscing about parental advice, Muddy Waters and earlier times. The earlier collection for Silvertone ‘Feels Like Rain’ was perhaps the template for this outing and I swear Guy doesn’t sound a year older.   ‘Justifyin’ ‘ has a stomping riff and distinctive Guy guitar axe squeals. He’s is good form vocally, here admonishing a female acquaintance. The funk tread of ‘I Go By Feel’ finds Buddy over electric piano and a gospel-tinged arrangement with his strident six-string screams and a tale about a blind pal. It’s a standout cut, with sharp guitar cruising over coasting strings in a ‘Thrill Is Gone’ sequence.

Guest Kid Rock steps up to the challenge of a joint vocal with Guy on the chestnut ‘Messin’ With the Kid’ and acquits himself pretty well though it will always be hard to top what Rory G did with this song, of course.  I don’t know the total number of BG songs about troublesome women but whatever number ‘What’s Up With That Woman’ is, she sounds as wayward as any of them ! Foot-tapping stuff, rolling horns and our man bitching about the lass’s shortcomings ; then in total contrast the fresh-air country soul style of ‘One Day Away’ which has the fine pairing of Guy and Keith Urban evoking a top-notch John Hiatt song such as ‘Feels Like Rain’ and a neat detour from the sonic grit showered upon us so far. An Albert King tempo and shimmering piano start Guy’s duet with LA phoenix soulster Beth Hart. The song is complete with a neat middle eight and lioness performance from Hart as they detail a romantic crossroads. Eventually the cut fading over bent Guy guitar figures, heavy gear but well-handled.  ‘Devils’ Daughter’ is another duff-female lament over a dark guitar groove and with Guy sounding genuinely anguished over his situation in the story. Hopefully he regained control of the remote or whatever?….

‘Whiskey Ghost’ drips with menace as the dangers of imbibing are described over a spooky backdrop. Now the vocal is nothing short of superb on this song, Guy knows just how to bring this home. Not easy listening, but rewarding listening and no histrionics. This disc concludes with a snatch of elastic guitars weaving…….

The second disc ‘Blues’ kicks off with the spidery riffing of ‘Meet Me In Chicago’ with its catchy chorus, again Buddy sounds so at ease vocally and cuts loose with the single-note runs, cutting into double-stops as the bass pounds away ; ‘Too Damn Bad’ has a Vanguard / Chess feel and Guy roars into a ‘you-brought-this-on-yerself’ lyric over clanking piano, again such fiery guitar ! Three of the Aerosmith cats appear on ‘Evil Twin’ as Hammond swells puff away over the easy-rolling tempo. Guy takes the accusatory role on this tale, much like Ronald Isley on the Mr Biggs material – Tyler responds with a gritty answer-back edge and Perry spills out the blues runs we know he can produce when he wants to, on what sounds like a Les Paul. Intense but enjoyable stuff, indeed. Acoustic out (David Grissom) for ‘I Could Die Happy’ and it’s laidback except for the stinging Guy guitar inserts. Reese Wynans from Double Trouble of course on rolling 88s. Steady slide on ‘Never Gonna Change’ makes for good-natured toe-tapper. Maybe this disc’s tenderest moment comes on ‘All That Makes Me Happy’ with its warm electric piano and a keen horn section just right in the mix. The horns are in jump-jive mode on the original ‘Poison Ivy’ and off Buddy strolls, having sung and played as well as he can throughout and on a well-above-average set of numbers

Tom Hambridge excels on his own recordings and here gives Buddy Guy  fabulous setting after fabulous setting to rock out and touch the listener’s soul – a wholly successful project methinks

Pete Sargeant      www.fairhearing.co.uk

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