Buddy Guy is the very essence of the blues. In a career that has been going strong for decades, he has proven to be so reliably excellent that really any blues lover should only need to hear his name to know they’re going to get an excellent recording. Although he just turned 77 on July 30, 2013, Guy’s voice is just as strong and evocative as ever and his guitar playing remains as masterful as always, while the energy of his performances still rock the house.
On Rhythm & Blues fans get a two-disc collection featuring two styles of blues and some very special guests.
The“Rhythm” disc features blues with a soul groove. On it, Kid Rock adds his voice to Junior Wells’ classic “Messin’ with the Kid.” Guy played guitar on the original recording in 1960 and performed the song with Wells on Junior Wells and Buddy Guy Play the Blues in 1972.It’s a great number and the grit of Kid Rock’s vocal combines with Guy’s voice to bring some new excitement to it.
Keith Urban then joins Guy for a touching song, “One Day Away,” about telling your people you love them because time is fleeting and you never know what is going to be one day away. This one is a bit too solemn for this reviewer’s taste, but it a good song lyrically and very well done by Urban and Guy.
Beth Hart’s voice is a perfect match for Guy’s on the duet “What You Gonna Do About Me,” a highlight of the album. If you enjoy male-female combinations in the blues, this one will be very satisfying for you. Aside from the special guests, Guy proves he can mesmerize with just himself and his band. The disc opens with the biographical “Best in Town” and the listener is hooked from the first line, “When I first heard Muddy Waters…”
Two other songs on this first disc are worthy of singling out. “Whiskey Ghost” makes metaphoric use of the supernatural to express the lingering longing for alcohol in a recovering addict. Guy’s sincerity really sells this song.In contrast to that solemn theme is the rollicking version of Guitar Slim’s “Well I Done Got Over It.”
The “Blues” disc takes us straight to Chicago with another biographical number, the upbeat tribute to that city that has played such a part in Guy’s life and music, “Meet Me in Chicago.” There are a couple of great guest appearances on the CD here too. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and Brad Whitfield add to the sheer fun of “Evil Twin,” which is another highlight of the whole set. Another great bluesman, Guy Clark Jr., joins Guy for the riveting “Blues Don’t Care.”
Of the other numbers, “I Could Die Happy” is a sly, flirty song about a woman, with great guitar playing emphasizing the words of the lyrics. Most of the rest of the songs on this disc have a very personal feel that really make the listener feel a bond with the singer, which is one of the things blues does best. “Never Gonna Change,” “All That Makes Me Happy is the Blues,” “My Mama Loved Me,” and “I Come Up Hard,” all are heartfelt and reflect Guy’s life and attitude sincerely.
Unlike many two-disc sets, there are no weak songs here.The quality of song choice, singing,playing and production is consistent throughout all 21 songs.
As long as Buddy Guy is still around and continuing to influence new musicians, the blues is in good hands. His legacy will help insure that the genre lives on even after he’s gone. In the meantime, every blues lover should add Rhythm & Blues to their collection as soon as possible.