Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Buddy Guy is Born To Play The Guitar

I love this time of year around Jordan’s Branch. You can’t beat a small town in the middle of nowhere for celebrating the holidays. The leaves are pretty much off the trees now and the humidity is all but gone from the sky, so the view is clear to see the stars and listen to some great blues.
Henry will tell you the reason I don’t buy many CDs is because I’m cheap. Maybe it’s my Scottish blood, but when you have studios and publicists sending you all sorts of great music, it just seems like a shame to pull out the wallet and pony over the money to buy more.
Okay, I’m cheap. Just watch him try to pick up a check sometime. I’ve seen glaciers move faster…
Every once in a while though, we don’t receive a copy of a major release and I’ve got no choice if I want to hear the album or play it on the show, so this week, when I was down in Richmond I hit a very cool record store and shuffled through their all of two-foot wide blues section.
No exaggeration, this was tiny. It’s so sad that America’s music was condensed into an area that might have been able to fill two show boxes with CDs. I know the music is out there – it’s all on Amazon and CD Baby and iTunes and other places. I just miss going into a record store and having a knowledgeable staff person talk to me about why this guy or that gal is the next big thing.
I got a couple of guys that looked like they had been kicked out of the carny circuit to show me where the section was (one sort of apologized – you could see he was more like me in that respect) and I quickly flipped through the section.
Lo and behold, they DID have the one CD I was looking for, Buddy Guy’s 2015 release BORN TO PLAY GUITAR. It’s an RCA release and the Professor doesn’t know anyone at RCA, so no one shipped us a copy. And as Henry mentioned, I’m a little – frugal – with my money…
While I was there I went ahead and bought a couple of more CDs just to encourage them to deepen their stock and you’ll be hearing all three on Time For The Blues in the future.
But Buddy first. I’m pretty sure this CD will be featured on our year-end “Best Of” show or shows. There’s so much good music that came across my desk in 2015 that we might not be able to get it all into one show.
What can I say about Guy that hasn’t already been said by better wordsmiths? He’s the link to old Chicago Blues and he’s played with and influenced just about everyone. He’s one of my favorite musicians of all time and one of those guys (no pun intended) who could be on the show just about every week and still sound fresh.
Guy has had a lot of help on this CD including performances from Billy Gibbons, Kim Wilson, Joss Stone, and Van Morrison. Guy co-wrote five of the fourteen songs and Producer Tom Hambridge wrote or co-wrote twelve.
The CD starts out with the title track and perhaps Buddy Guy’s raison d’etre, Born To Play Guitar, with a little spoken word riff and an old school run on piano and guitar. That’s one thing about Guy, when you think he’s going to take off with a blistering guitar lead, he brings you in slowly and quietly making you sit up and pay attention.
Guy follows up with the first collaboration, Wear You Out, which features Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and you can hear the growl in both voices and guitars. The two make for a powerful team and this is the kind of song that hits you in the gut and sucks you deeply into the groove.
Back Up Mama starts off with a slowhand approach that lets Guy’s vocals take over. He brings in the rest of the band after the first stanza and the song starts to sound like a small combo on stage at the roadhouse. It’s not long before Guy’s guitar takes off an soars – definitely a crowd pleaser.
The next collaboration is Too Late featuring Kim Wilson and Wilson’s harp adds a little seasoning to the song. It’s a straight ahead rocker originally written by Charles Brown, Willie Dixon, and John Phillips.
Whiskey, Beer & Wine starts off nice and funky with a strong back beat. This is blues at its most essential – things that solve and create problems. Once again Guy’s guitar takes flight and drives the song (along with Hambridge’s drums and Michael Rhodes’ bass).
Once again there is a collaboration featuring Kim Wilson’s harp, Kiss Me Quick. Another solid driving song, Wilson’s harp takes the song out for a little spin. Guy is very charitable with his guests, allowing each to put their stamp on the song and enhancing the proceedings.
Crying Out Of One Eye brings things down a couple of levels while adding some horns to the mix. You’ve got to love those smoky low numbers that tear your heart out. We are in strong blues territory with this number. Reese Wynans’ organ adds so much to this and any song that features the Muscle Shoals horns is worth playing over and over.
Next is a lovely duet featuring Joss Stone, (Baby) You Got What It Takes. Her sultry soulful voice is a perfect complement to Guy’s rough voice. Together they combine to make what is my favorite song on the album.
Next up is Turn Me Wild, which is a swampy little number that catches you with its guitar riffs and supernatural feel to the lyrics. This is what can happen when the blues get that deep in your soul. Great song.
Guy gets a little psychedelic with Crazy World with some strange distortions and ghostly background. He then settles down with a lyric that just reminds us how topsy-turvy the world has become. He stays with the unusual sounds with Smarter Than I Was.
Thick Like Mississippi Mud has a strong jump sound that rocks you from the opening notes. His guitar work is stellar on this one and the addition of the horns drives the song. This is one of the strongest numbers on the album.
His last collaboration on the CD is Flesh & Bone with Van Morrison and is dedicated to B.B. King. Morrison’s plaintive vocals add a gospel flavor to the song and the change in tone makes it stand out even more. With the addition of the McCrary Sisters providing background vocals, this is a beautiful song and will melt your heart.
Guy brings us back to solid blues ground with Come Back Muddy. This is a tribute to his old friend Muddy Waters and the times they shared. Guy may have assumed the title of “Greatest Living Blues Artist” but that has come with the pain of so many of his friends passing away. You can feel his pain in nearly every note and the joy they shared on the road.
How can you go wrong with Buddy Guy? His playing is terrific and his voice hasn’t dimmed with age. He still preaches, hollers, shouts, sings, and whispers the blues. He’s not afraid to experiment and he knows how to wring every emotion out of six strings.
Born To Play The Guitar? Damn Right!
This is essential listening and should be in every blues lovers collection.

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