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Buddy Guy reassures listeners that "The Blues Is Alive and Well"

RCA / Silvertone
"The Blues Is Alive and Well" is Buddy Guy's 18th studio album.
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ALBUM REVIEW: Buddy Guy – The Blues Is Alive and Well (RCA/Silvertone) 2018

Is it me, or does it seem like Buddy Guy is simply everywhere?

I noticed it when he (or his assistants) started following me on Twitter out of the blue. And then I began hearing his songs everywhere.

Like I heard Guy on his 2008 track “Best Damn Fool,” where he wails away on a ’57 Stratocaster and sings with a confidence not heard much these days, particularly with a bitchin’ horn section backing you up. Wow! (It’s the first track on Skin Deep, if you’re interested).

And then I heard him on a new track, on the radio, playing a cover of The Rolling Stones’ 1973 single “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” with Mick Jagger helping on vocals. Man, it was absolutely dynamite (featured on the just-released collection Chicago Plays The Stones), and hearing Buddy Guy sing those lyrics of cops shooting a boy through the heart, it sounds contemporary (in light of the recent uptick of police shootings of African-Americans), while also – eerily – timeless.

But that’s the thing about the blues. As Buddy Guy recently said, “Fashions come and go. But the blues ain’t ever going out of style. The blues is the truth.”

And I think about that very honest truth when I listen to Guy’s absolutely smokin’ new album The Blues Is Alive And Well. That is the truth! I just returned from Helena, Arkansas, attending the 33rd Annual King Biscuit Blues Festival, and the blues is alive and well, let me tell you!

In fact, my 7-year-old son picked up his first harmonica while we were across the Mississippi River at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He blew and blew on that Hohner mouth harp as we crossed over Ol’ Man River and into Helena. And there, in downtown Helena, this young bluesman-in-the-making posed in front of an historic sign promoting Sonny Boy Williamson’s (II) time on KFFA’s King Biscuit Time radio show.

Yes, Buddy Guy, at 82 years old, is still recording, touring and doing interviews and radio shows. He seems as popular as ever. And not ready to give up the ghost any time soon, thankfully!

And seeing him on the cover of his new album, The Blues Is Alive And Well (produced by drummer/producer/songwriter Tom Hambridge) it’s cool seeing him smiling and standing next to the sign of his Louisiana hometown of Lettsworth, which is near the confluence of the Atchafalaya, Red and Mississippi rivers (an area I’m quite familiar with his old stomping grounds, having covered towns in neighboring Avoyelles Parish for The Town Talk newspaper in Alexandria, La.).

Yes, he is looking back home, having left Lettsworth in the late 1950’s for Chicago – and fame, playing sessions with everyone from Muddy Waters to Howlin’ Wolf and influencing countless numbers of white rock n’ rollers, from Jimmy Page (The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin) to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.

And, of course, The Rolling Stones. Two Stones – Mick and Keith – appear on two separate tracks, Jagger on the old-school, Chicago blues number “You Did the Crime” and Richards with Jeff Beck on the delicious track “Cognac,” where Guy talks about his old pal Muddy Waters – a man the Stones loved and respected and brought to the broader American public – drinking them under the table with that smooth beverage.

Man, Guy sounds absolutely in his element. And his inclusion of the Stones shows that he appreciates the love the British rockers gave the blues performers when most people had never heard of them some 50 years ago. We should note that the Stones’ 2016 album Blue & Lonesome, heavy on the blues, is one of the best albums they have ever recorded (check out our review here).

While the guests on the record play a strong role on the songs they appear on, none overpower or upstage Buddy Guy. This is his turf and you get all the blood, sweat and tears from him.

And Guy has outlived many of his peers, black and white. So, hearing the opening track, “A Few Good Years,” this guitar legend is feeling the years finally catching up with him, and pleading with the Lord to give him a few more good years. Please, Lord, please keep Buddy Guy alive for a long time yet! His music speaks to so many of us. The blues is a part of the human condition. That is why it resonates so much.

But that doesn’t mean Guy is down and blue. There is a lot of joy on this 15-track record, as I have indicated. And even though he’s an octogenarian, his voice is fantastic and dexterity on that BG Blonde Strat is second to none.

“When My Day Comes” is another track, with a slinky groove, where Guy acknowledges his mortality as Kevin McKendree adds some swirling Wurlitzer on this late-night number where Guy’s Eric Johnson Signature Strat does a lot of the talking, let me tell you!

Guy is sly and playful on the track “Guilty As Charged,” where he tells an ex that “the devil is out tonight.” Better watch out!

The aforementioned Sonny Boy Williamson is acknowledged via Guy’s cover of the blues standard “Nine Below Zero” about a woman putting her man down to be with another man. Too cold!

English singer James Bay is a guest on “Blue No More” while the Muscle Shoals Horns appear on the Guy-Hambridge-penned “Old Fashioned” which is Guy being as fun-loving and loose as ever, breathing that Louisiana country air (“It’s good for you!”). He doesn’t care what you think of him, because he is living life to the fullest! That solo, played on his Guild Starfire 4S, speaks volumes, y’all!

Those same horns reappear on "End Of The Line," the second to last track before a stripped down, straight-up acoustic blues number, "Milking Muther For You," which demonstrates how seriously Buddy Guy takes the blues and embraces his roots.

For more information on Buddy Guy, jump on over to his website here.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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