For an artist with such a legacy and musical repertoire as Buddy Guy, new releases come around once in a long while. Having played alongside artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Guy is widely regarded as a paragon of the original blues sound. However, the wait is over, and soon Guy’s newest production, Rhythm and Blues, will hit record stores and music outlets alike.
Despite having a career that spans nearly 6o years, Rhythm and Blues is Buddy Guy’s first double album, weighing in at a hefty 21 tracks. The opener Best In Town, makes a grand entrance, as bluesy guitars assault the listener, with horns in enfilade. Justifyin’ follows up with a very cynical and suspicious Guy sizing up his woman’s alibis exclaiming metaphors like “You feeding me something, I won’t ever eat, your watermelon ain’t got no seeds”.
I Go By Feel is a salute to the old storytelling techniques of the blues, and seems to lean towards the smokey, emotion-heavy style of B.B. King. The subject of the tune is a old blind man who lives down in Mississippi, who navigates by the sense of touch, but also contains the double entendre of meaning the blues simply comes directly from the soul (“The only way I know what’s real, I go by feel”). The addition of soulful strings and sultry backing vocalists makes this track one of the most smooth and relaxing ballads on the album.
One of the most surprising facets of Rhythm and Blues is the amount, and diversity, of guest vocalists. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, even country singer Keith Urban, all have features. Tyler’s vocals compliment Guy’s smokey voice well, but it is Urban’s feature song, One Day Away, is a true standout performance. The song focuses on the fleetingness of life, and the “here one moment, gone the next” philosophy. The song’s mantra repeats itself, “Don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wish one day away”.
A blues album wouldn’t be complete, however, without a blues jam number, and The Devil’s Daughter fulfills this role. The lyrics are some of the cleverest on the album, yet they make us genuinely sympathize with the song’s protagonist with phrases like,”If I was drowning, and going under, she’d hand me a glass of water, I’m in trouble now, cause I think I married the Devil’s Daughter”.
My personal favorite track, is the sorrowful booze ballad, Whiskey Ghost. This number has the true Delta Blues style with a pinch of voodoo. It’s incredibly lyrically charming, even while dealing with a serious issue: alcoholism (“Whiskey Ghost, keep on haunting me, killed him a long time ago, but he still after me”).
Despite being 76, Buddy Guy proves he’s still got it, and adds in plenty of novel ideas in this testament of an album. Rhythm and Blues chronicles all of life’s trials and tribulations, evoking both happiness and sorrow, hope and regret, pride and shame. And at it’s heart, that’s all the blues really is: life, and the emotion therein.