Guitar man Corbin Reiff assesses an important new blues album:
Buddy Guy, “Rhythm and Blues” (RCA)
There aren’t many people left in the world quite like Buddy Guy. With greats such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon long gone, the 76-year-old guitarist is becoming the last of a dying breed that helped define the sound of Chicago blues in the 1950s and ‘60s. Guy has never been one to rest on his laurels, however, and has decided to strap on his polka-dotted Fender Stratocaster for a new release, which he has aptly titled Rhythm and Blues.
The double-album is like one long jam session, featuring expected slow-tempo blues-ballads like “The Devil’s Daughter” mixed with barnburners such as the wah-wah- inflected “Best in Town.” Joining in on the festivities are some of Guy’s more famous friends, including three-fifths of Aerosmith in Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Bradley Whitford on “Evil Twin,” Aussie country star Keith Urban on “One Day Away” and the rap-rock institution that is Kid Rock on “Messin’ With the Kid.”
As with any jam, there are moments when the album tends to drag, but in short order another track comes along to pick up the pace. Perhaps the most interesting moment occurs on the song “Blues Don’t Care,” in which Guy deftly trades incendiary pentatonic guitar licks with up-and-coming Austin-area blues player Gary Clark Jr.
While Guy’s acumen as a singer has never been in question, the clear star of the record is his guitar, which he bends, twists and plays in a way that only Buddy Guy is able. In a landscape positively brimming with Jimi Hendrix clones and Stevie Ray Vaughanabies, it’s refreshing to hear someone with a guitar style and tone uniquely his own. On the whole, Rhythm and Blues lives up to its title as a record steeped in the styles and traditions of the genre itself.