May 18, 2024

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CD review: Buddy Guy – The Blues Don’t Lie 2022: Video, CD cover

Buddy Guy seems to have recorded his latest album with the intention of asserting that he is — well into his tenth decade of life! — as vital and influential a bluesman today as he’s ever been. It’s hard to imagine any true fan of the genre disagreeing.

The album’s stunning opener, “I Let Me Guitar to the Talking.” Tells us everything we need to know about the awesome power of Guy’s fretboard work and his clever wordplay. His style here may remind us of Jimi Hendrix, but only because the Voodoo Chile’ himself was a fan and acolyte. It’s the finest song on the album, but calling it a standout track doesn’t feel right. Simply put, nothing ‘stands out’ on The Blues Don’t Lie because everything is equally moving and raw. It is the best work of Buddy Guy’s career which is to say, it is the blues at its very best. Do not pass up an opportunity to experience it.

“And the winner of the 2023 Blues Blast Music Award for Best Traditional (or Contemporary or whatever category you’d like to put it in) Blues Album of the Year is…Buddy Guy– The Blues Don’t Lie!” Any year Buddy Guy releases a new album, the first thing I think of is,  “Well, he’s got another award wrapped up.” But I’m sorry; I’m getting ahead of myself.

Buddy returns to producing albums with Tom Hambridge.  Tom wrote eleven of the 16 tracks for this album. Buddy wrote two himself (perhaps the best two on the CD) and there are also three excellent covers included here.  Sixteen tracks– over an hour of music. At 86, Buddy is still going at it full force with lots and lots of new music and giving it his all.  Why would anyone expect less? And to add to the enjoyment, we get to also have a half dozen superb artists perform with him on this new album.

The players here, in addition to Buddy, are Tom Hambridge on drums and percussion, Michael Rhodes and Glenn Worf share the bass duties, Kevin McKendrie and Reese Wynans alternate on the various keyboard instruments, Rob McNelley adds his guitar,  Max Abrams and Steve Patrick are the horn section, and track 2 features Michael Saint-Leon on Low End Guitar and Mike Hicks on Background Vocals. Guest appearances by Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, Bobby Rush, Jason Isbell and Wendy Moten round out this pretty much all star affair. What a set of players and singers!

The album begins with a rousing and driving “I Let My Guitar Do the Talking” and he certainly does.  The song includes a big production sound, horns and all the bells and whistles for a great and memorable song.  Buddy is as spry and slick performing here as he ever was in this song he wrote.

A very cool slow blues follows, “Blues Don’t Lie.” Guy sings with passion as he glides effortlessly through this song with some ethereal guitar and with backing vocals, organ and horns making it even better.  “The World Needs Love” follows, the second cut Guy wrote here and it’s a big, slow Chicago blues done only as Buddy can.  He emotes vocally, he emotes on his guitar, he brings it with a fierce and fiery performance.  Mavis appears in the soul blues “We Go Back.” The duet between her and Buddy is truly superb; intensely emotional, full of feeling; I loved it.

Elvis Costello appears on the next cut “Symptoms of Love.” Costello howls with the symptoms of love as Guy delivers another winner with Elvis’ assistance. “Follow The Money” features James Taylor who, like Costello, takes a backing vocal role to Buddy. Next is “Well Enough Alone,” which starts as a stripped down blues with guitar and Buddy delivering a down home intro. Then things pick up as Buddy and the band rip into what they should have left well enough alone.  The guitar stings and the organ blazes as Guy testifies to his errors. Bobby Rush assists on “What’s Wrong With That” and Buddy and Bobby tells us what makes them happy; crispy bacon, places to put your cigar, being lazy laying around with your woman or whatever it is. Both of these guys have been around and don’t have time to waste with things they don’t like and they won’t make excuses about liking them.

Jason Isbell appears in the social commentary about our gun problem killing our youth. Buddy and Jason rail about the injustice of people killing innocent people and we do nothing to stop them. The boogie with Wendy Moten is a fun cut; “House Party” describes having said party until dawn.  The card game is going on, the gumbo is on the stove, he’s getting to meet the local young lovelies and everyone is having a great time.  B.B. King’s “Sweet Thing” follows that, with Buddy and his guitar wailing and moaning as they play off each other; really good stuff! “Back Door Scratchin’” is next, a cut where Buddy is the old dog scratching at the back door until he gets in for a taste.

The John Lennon Beatle cut “I’ve Got a Felling” gets worked over into a beautiful mid-tempo blues by Guy and it’s damned good. “Rabbit Blood” is a slow blues about his girl wanting to do things like bunnies do; ‘nuff said there. “Last Call” is a not a bar song but an end of relationship tune as Guy tells his women he’s done with both his drink and her.  He concludes with a solo version of “King Bee” where he plays acoustic guitar and sings with somberness and feeling.  It’s pretty damn cool.

While it’s almost a given that Buddy wins when he releases something, next year it will be because it’s truly well deserved. For me, this is his best album since 2001’s Sweet Tea and it is close to being one of his best; it is a flawless effort.  This is a superb album and it is well worth adding to any blues lover’s collection.

Buddy Guy is a National Treasure! The 86-year-old, living blues legend is one of the last of the OG’s. He was running up and down the highways and making blues masterpieces before most of us were born. On this latest release, The Blues Don’t Lie, undoubtedly proves that Buddy is the World Heavyweight Champion of the blues. He’s the real deal. It doesn’t get much better than Buddy… from his singing, his guitar playing, to his showmanship on stage.  While most artists slow down later in life, he shows no signs of slowing down. As cliché as it sounds, he is truly getting better with age.

On this project, Guy once again enlisted the expertise of Tom Hambridge, his long-time drummer, songwriter, and producer to partner on the making of the record.  In addition to having a world class roster of musicians on the project, Buddy also has quite an impressive list of guests artists as well. Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, Jason Isbell, Bobby Rush, and Wendy Moten all contribute stellar guest vocal performances to the project. The production and song writing on the project are equally as impressive along with the guest artists and musicians on the project.

The release starts off with the up-tempo single “Let My Guitar Do the Talking”, and Buddy does just that. The song has a tight rhythm section in Tom Hambridge and Michael Rhodes on Bass, which is perfectly accented by the stylistic B3 Playing of fellow Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame member Reese Wynans. The song is reminiscent of the power of Cream in their prime with the funkiness of Tower of Power. It’s a fantastic way to start the record and let the listener know that Buddy’s still got it.

“Blues Don’t Lie” is the title track off of the record, and has an instantly memorable hook which is on par with Buddy’s iconic “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” track from the 90s. “Blues Don’t Lie” is a descriptive narrative of the meaning of the blues. At one point in the song, Buddy proclaims… “If you ain’t got the blues, just keep on living”.

The track “We Go Back” features the instantly recognizable voice of Blues icon Mavis Staples. The song reflects back on the civil rights movement and other struggles faced by so many during that time. The song may seem like a song about the challenges of a generation, but in actuality, it is a story of triumph over struggles through faith and grace. It is a reminder that we still have a long way to go, but we can get through it if we believe.

“Gunsmoke Blues” is a haunting track that features a remarkable performance by Jason Isbell. The song discusses the epidemic of gun violence we face in America and other parts of the world. The stance of the song mentions the politics and divisiveness of the issue but focusses more on the tragedy of the loss of life. The song exudes emotions of anger and hopelessness in an effort to be a catalyst for change. While the subject matter of this song may be dark and heavy, the song is masterfully written and performed.

While two of the tracks on this project deal with heavy subject matter, overall the release features a great mix of up-tempo numbers and a few traditional blues numbers thrown in for good measure.  “House Party” featuring Wendy Moten and “Back Door Scratchin’ ” are two other stand out up-temp songs. On the traditional side, Buddy also does versions of B.B. King’ s ” Sweet Thing” and “I’m A King Bee”. The Blues Don’t Lie is a well-rounded release and features something for most blues fans.

Buddy Guy is one of the most decorated Blues artists ever, and deservedly so. Over his career, he has won 8 Grammy Awards, an astounding 38 Blues Music Awards, a Kennedy Center Honors award, the Presidential National Medal of Arts, and is a Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee. I’ll say it again… Buddy Guy is a National Treasure. I recently had the privilege of seeing him at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. He’s as good now as he was when I saw him back in the 90s. Do yourself a favor and go pick up a copy of The Blues Don’t Lie, and go see Buddy live if you get the chance. The Blues Don’t Lie is one of his best works in a vast career of great releases. It is an incredible record and genuinely makes me happy. It may just be the cure for the blues.

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

Buddy Guy Announces New Album 'The Blues Don't Lie'

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