Buddy Guy – The Blues is Alive and Well

Buddy Guy

 

Title: The Blues is Alive and Well

Artist: Buddy Guy

Label: Silvertone/RCA

Format: CD, LP, Digital

Release Date: June 15, 2018

 

Immediately upon hearing his mesmerizing riffs, this blues novice could tell I was in the presence of a legend. The Blues is Alive and Well, the latest release from multiple Grammy and award winner Buddy Guy, demonstrates that this icon is throwing us what could arguably be his most skilled offering yet. In recognition of his many contributions to the genre, The Americana Music Association is awarding Guy a Lifetime Achievement Award on September 12th in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, complimenting his 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement award and his more than 50 years as a blues innovator, musician and mentor. To say that Buddy Guy has a long history with the blues does not do him justice—according to numerous musicians, Buddy Guy IS the blues, period.

Guy opens the 15-track album with “A Few Good Years,” a haunting, rambling slide number showcasing his trademark growl and lyrically addressing the desire to do what he does best for just a little while longer: “A few good years/is all I need right now.” “Guilty as Charged” testifies exactly as you would expect—an uptempo confessional sermonizing not only the singer’s introspectiveness but also Guy’s legendary steel-driving artistry. “Whiskey for Sale” is a call-and-response between the vocals and Guy’s guitar as they negotiate their trade, and the invigorating work song rhythm on “Ooh Daddy” remains with you long past the last chord drop.

Collaborators weigh in on Guy’s blues mission, as well, including several British musicians profoundly influenced by the genre. Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards contribute to the ‘killing floor’ offering “You Did the Crime” and the warm and fuzzy “Cognac,” respectively, as does another rock guitarist, Jeff Beck. Being that the Rolling Stones began as a band called “The Blues Boys” and they’ve paid homage to Guy in the past, the participation of Jagger and Richards comes as no surprise. “Blue No More” introduces guitarist James Bay, a worthy up-and-coming blues man in his own right.

Taking down the tempo a notch Louisiana blues style, “When My Day Comes” mesmerizes with its plodding tempo and dark undertones about what is yet to materialize. “Bad Day,” a dark but electric musing, warns of how even the best person can reach their wit’s end sometimes. But in the end, Guy’s line, “You can call me old-fashioned/but I still know how to have my fun” on the track “Old Fashioned” sums up this album—and indeed, his entire career.

Guy sounds every bit as vital and youthful on this album as he did on his early collaborations with the late Junior Wells, and it’s inspiring to hear a veteran artist laying down the blues with such continual precision time and again. Both timeless and cutting edge, The Blues is Alive and Well proves that when it comes to Buddy Guy and the blues, 81 is certainly the new 21—no bones about it.

Reviewed by Amy Aiyegbusi

Buddy Guy – Born to Play Guitar

buddy guy born to play guitar._AA160_

Title: Born to Play Guitar

Artist: Buddy Guy

Label: RCA

Formats: CD, MP3, Vinyl

Release Date: July 31, 2015

 

 

B.B King’s death struck me and many other blues lovers like a ton of bricks, particularly as it served as a bitter reminder that many of the legendary blues singers are aging and passing away. Buddy Guy is one of these aging bluesmen who still maintain an active schedule of recording dates and performances, continuing to maintain his legendary status even as a younger generation of musicians takes the genre’s reins.

Guy’s Born to Play Guitar is the guitarist’s 28th studio album, and is arguably one of the best blues albums released in recent memory. Buddy Guy is a well-documented road warrior, who still performs with the energy of a much younger man, at times outperforming musicians many years (or even decades) his junior. This 14 song collection documents the bluesman’s energy and includes several pleasant surprises, including guest appearances from Van Morrison, Joss Stone, Kim Wilson, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

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The titular “Born to Play Guitar” sets the tone for the album, with Guy reminiscing about some of his earliest experiences as a performer. “Wear You out,” featuring Gibbons, showcases two music industry veterans trading licks back and forth, a fruitful collaboration that this reviewer would like to see more of in the future. Kim Wilson, the lead singer for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, plays harmonica on two cuts. Kim is likely one of the best blues singers or harmonica players in the business. For those not already familiar with Wilson’s group, the Born to Play Guitar cuts “Too Late” and “Kiss Me Quick” will likely inspire further investigation into his own back catalog. Other highlights include “(Baby) You Got What it Takes,” a soulful collaboration between Guy and Joss Stone, and “Flesh & Bones,” a moving song by Tom Hambridge, the drummer and producer of Born to Play Guitar, which is dedicated to B.B. King and features a heartfelt duet by Guy and Van Morrison. It is difficult not to recall instances in which Buddy and B.B. collaborated when listening to this heartfelt tribute. The album ends with a tune about another blues legend, Muddy Waters. In “Come Back Muddy,” Buddy reflects on their time together playing the blues circuit, with the song serving as a poignant reminder of another generation of great bluesmen.

While Born to Play Guitar  decidedly focuses on the past at times, Buddy Guy still has much to say with his music—it is safe to say that blues fans hope to have him around for quite a while longer.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Patrick Byrket