The Blues Don't Lie
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