Buddy Guy: Rhythm & Blues
Jazz & Blues
The legendary Jimi Hendrix once listed Buddy Guy as a major influence, as did Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It’s not hard to see why; even at the ripe age of 77, this pioneer of Chicago Blues is able to release explosive album, Rhythm & Blues; a record that shot straight to number one on Billboard’s Blues Album Chart.
Outside of the fact that this is his 27th release, Buddy is ranked 30th in the Rolling Stone’s Greatest Guitarists of All Time, has a song in their Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time, and a guitar in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He’s an old hand, a professional, and it shows; with seemingly effortless ease, he’s rattled off 21 songs that range between uncompromising, rampaging rock and roll (as in ‘Best In Town’) to slow, smooth and screaming blues (check out ‘I Go By Feel’ or ‘Whisky Ghost’).
Despite his age, Buddy’s voice is just as strong and assertive as ever and indeed has gained a gritty, soulful quality that adds depth and a certain appeal to the album; as if to reaffirm his guitar credentials the album’s littered with solos that are by turns mournful or chaotic -wah-wah abounds throughout.
Although the album is dominated by Buddy, to think of it as a one-man show would be a mistake. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler makes a guest appearance on ‘Evil Twin’, and across the album you’ll hear Kid Rock, Keith Urban and Gary Clark Jr; in particular, ‘What You Gonna Do About Me’ featuring Beth Hart, shows how effectively Buddy can share a stage.
More than these guests, it’s the session musicians standing behind Buddy who give the album its tone of power, energy and confidence. The drummer asserts himself with wide, loud fills and rhythms that seem to say “I’m here, and this song is happening now – I hope you’ve braced yourself.” He’s also intuitively connected to Buddy, giving the guitarist’s solos a flavour and current that could not exist were he a lesser drummer.
The bassist exudes a quiet confidence that strengthens the foundations from which Buddy works; throughout most of the album you don’t realise he’s there until you listen, but once you do you can’t stop. Backup vocalists add depth and variety and his pianist/organist is astonishing. An excellent horns section adds that certain something that pushes this album over the top; talented and versatile, they add swagger to funk and soul to blues, and are the spice that makes this album gourmet.
27 albums in, it’s no surprise that Buddy is set in his ways; all his previous releases have been blues albums, and any in the future will also be blues albums. But within that framework, Buddy continues to deliver songs that are sometimes nostalgic, sometimes innovative. He seems to know when to stick to his guns and when to experiment, particularly with new guitar pedals, and has included an array of guests, both young and old, to create an excellent fusion of past and present.