There are only a handful of blues greats left on this Earth like Buddy Guy. With the exception of B.B. King, no other living legend of the genre has spawned such voracious imitation and lasting influence – just name-check the likes of Clapton and Hendrix. The two originals in their own right both openly owe a debt of gratitude to Guy’s potent string bending, shredding before there was a name for it, and with deep-blues ache. At the age of 76, Guy continues to foster his own legacy with a daring double-disc collection titled “Rhythm & Blues.”
Divided into a “rhythm” disc and “blues” disc, the set offers not only a glimpse into the electric Chicago blues fare that launched a blues renaissance some 45 years ago with bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin, but also the more soulful side of an artist that’s Louisiana-bred and instilled with authentic Southern charm. Tracks like “One Day Away,” a duet with Keith Urban, are smooth as a Memphis sunrise, glistening with country ease and give and take with some of the most honest blues chops in recent memory – Guy’s influence is something that Urban obviously tucked under his hat as part of his own impressive arsenal.
On the grittier side, “Evil Twin,” a collaboration with Aerosmith, is as smarmy as a 1950s beer joint on Chicago’s South Side – the ragged emotion and labored 12-bar cadence inflecting the track with the very guts that birthed rock ‘n’ roll itself. “I Came Up Hard” is another bare-knuckled biographical tale that Guy spins so well; his recanting the toil of living in a sharecropper’s shack, yet emerging with a still-maintained golden heart, is a hallmark of his best writing. By the time “Poison Ivy” hits with an uptown-swing hammer, Guy’s piercing Stratocaster shrapnel has been fully deployed and leaves a trail of would-be broken strings in its wake.
An album celebrating a career of inspirational guitar outreach, and a continued command of a classic blues idiom which he himself helped spawn, Buddy Guy shows the youngsters how it’s done with fuel to spare.
Buddy Guy ‘Rhythm & Blues’ Rating: W W W W V
-Mark Uricheck, Weekender Correspondent