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October 2022

Buddy Guy
The Blues Don't Lie
Silvertone Records

Buddy Guy

The fact that Buddy Guy is still releasing new material at the age of 86 should be celebrated in the blues world. Add the fact that his powerful voice and guitar playing sound like they should be coming from a man decades younger is even more reason to shout "Hooray for Buddy!"

And if you are looking for value in your blues purchases, consider that The Blues Don't Lie (Silvertone Records) has a whopping 16 cuts, all high quality music, with special guests like Mavis Staples, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Bobby Rush, Wendy Moten, and Jason Isbell. It's also produced by Tom Hambridge, one of the top production cats in the blues business today, who also had a hand in writing much of the material.

I'll start by highlighting my two favorite cuts from the disc. "Gunsmoke Blues" should be required listening for every politician selling their votes to the gun lobby (or at least to the voters that elect them). It's a slow blues with Jason Isbell sharing vocals with Buddy, with lines like, "...some folks blame the shooter, some folks blame the gun ... a million thoughts & prayers won't bring back anyone ..." Powerful stuff. Very powerful.

My other favorite is the closing number, with Buddy sitting down by himself with a Martin acoustic guitar to sing a slower version of Slim Harpo's "I'm A King Bee." It's just plain beautiful and understated in its simplicity.

Of course, who wouldn't get excited about hearing Mavis Staples another time, as she joins Buddy on "We Go Back," a slow blues that tells not just about the good old days when a cup of coffee cost a nickel but also when the blues was everywhere because of the civil rights struggles, including Mavis singing about the shooting of Martin Luther King before she turns it around by stating that she would like to go back to her grandmother's house right on Highway 61 in Mississippi. Buddy accentuates everything with a nice, tasteful blues guitar solo using his BG Blonde Strat.

Bobby Rush joins in on the mid-tempo "What's Wrong With That," as the two veteran bluesman sing about the things they like to have, such as extra butter on a biscuit (Buddy) and a woman half his age (Bobby). Rush contributes a nice harmonica solo, and it's obvious that this pair of legendary bluesmen had a lot of fun here.

The backing musicians get to shine, such as Kevin McKendree's piano work on the slow blues "Rabbit Blood," with Buddy's guitar breaks playing off the piano very well. McKendree also gets plenty of solo time on the topical slow blues, "The World Needs Love," as well as on the very slow 12-bar blues, "Sweet Thing," done originally by B.B. King.

I wasn't real familiar with singer Wendy Moten, but she certainly showed me a lot on "House Party," a mid-tempo blues shuffle. The soulful horn section of Max Abrams and Steve Patrick show up on the slow tune, "Blues Don't Lie," with Reese Wynans' B3 and Mike Hicks' backing vocals giving the song just a touch of a gospel feel.

Elvis Costello guests on backing vocals on a kind of a psychedelic number, "Symptoms Of Love," with fuzzy guitar from Guy and more echo in the vocals, while James Taylor joins on vocals on the topical mid-tempo blues, "Follow The Money," which gives hints of political shenanigans that just might be inspired by real life.

We get a funkier soulful tune in "Well Enough Alone," a typical back door type of blues song in "Back Door Scratchin'," and the Lennon / McCartney composition "I've Got A Feeling."

Let's wrap this review with the cut that opens the album, "Let My Guitar Do The Talking," a heavier blues with horns that form a wall of sound as Buddy tells his life story.

The Blues Don't Lie is one of the the best Buddy Guy recordings in his long and prolific career. The fact that he sounds this good at 86 is a marvel, and we all hope that he can keep it up for a couple more decades. Thank you, Buddy!

--- Bill Mitchell



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