Buddy Guy, The Blues Is Alive And Well – Review
by Constance Tucker
George “Buddy” Guy is an American blues guitarist and singer. He is an exponent of the robust Chicago blues scene and has influenced eminent guitarists including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck and John Mayer. In the 1960s, Guy played with Muddy Waters as a house guitarist at Chess Records and began a musical partnership with the harmonica player Junior Wells. Guy was ranked 23rd in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” His song “Stone Crazy” was ranked 78th in the Rolling Stone list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.” Clapton once described him as “the best guitar player alive.”
Guy was born and raised in Lettsworth, Louisiana. He began learning to play the guitar using a two-string diddley bow he made. Later, he was given a Harmony acoustic guitar, which, decades later in Guy’s lengthy career, was donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Guy’s discography is a vast documentation of his vivid career ranging from 1967, I Left My Blues in San Francisco to his most recent recording, and recent Grammy win for The Blues Is Alive and Well.
“A Few Good Years,” was co-penned by drummer and producer Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming. Guy sings the lyrics with beautiful reverence. His voice is stunning and at 81 years old the lyrics have stinging truth about them. Guy sings and wails with blazing depth, his words drip with honesty and he instantly binds the listener to the lyrics. His guitar playing is filled with soulful colorizations that add to the emotional depth. Keyboardist, Kevin McKendree supports Guy with well-placed commentary under his vocals, while bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Hambridge lock tightly for loping and magical blues ballad.
“Ooh Daddy,” also co-written by Hambridge and Fleming is a barnburner, Guy is on fire and he brings the heat. An elongated note after the first form sets the tone that Guy means business. The tune cooks and percolates, you cannot help but feel your body move. The tune builds and ends with a good old-fashioned punctuated ending. While “End of the Line,” sits in the middle lane with a mid-tempo feel with supporting horn lines that add a recalcitrant vibe to the tune. Guy lays it out “I won’t behave.” Damn good thing, his guitar playing is smoking hot on this one and he serves it up with blues attitude.
The Blues Is Alive and Well is everything avid Guy fans will adore. At 81 years old this bluesman is not showing any signs of slowing down. The album is filled with Guy’s trademark, searing electric guitar solos that pack enough punch to rattle the rooftops. It is easy to see why Guy’s guitar heroics are celebrated by many avid guitar fans beyond the blues. His voice remains buoyant and supple as he navigates each tune with mastery. Its easy to see why this one won a Grammy.