Music Reviews
2:08 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Buddy Guy: 'Rhythm And Blues' Titan Channels Guitar Wisdom

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 5:25 pm

On his new album, Rhythm & Blues, guitarist and vocalist Buddy Guy sums up his approach when he sings, "People always ask me / About the blues I play / I say it just comes through me / I don't know no other way / I go by feel." A few songs later, in "Whiskey Ghost," he trembles as he describes the nightly test of will with a common blues-culture demon. Then, working alongside Steven Tyler of Aerosmith in "Evil Twin," he rolls through Blues 101 tales of woe about getting tangled up with the wrong kind of woman.

There are 21 songs on this two-disc set of new recordings, and by the time it's over, Guy and his guests have visited just about every worn-out blues cliché. That would be tedious listening if he were a troubadour. But in his music, the lyrics are really just there to set the scene. The jolts start after the verses, when Guy begins to play. His guitar — a custom Buddy Guy 1989 Fender Stratocaster — is more than hot-wired. It sounds like it'll give you a blistering burn if you get too close.

Every time Buddy Guy steps out, even if he's just doing a quick ad-lib between lines, he delivers something profound. That guitar wisdom, dispensed so casually, is the element no producer or record executive can order up. Guy is among the last living links to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and other towering figures of the blues. And if you can't hear that in the slickness of the arrangements or the glitter from the celebrity guests, just be patient. The next guitar solo will come along in a minute or two, and then all that history will be inescapable.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From the hot grill now to hot music from Chicago-based bluesman, Buddy Guy. His new set of recordings is called "Rhythm and Blues," and it features cameos from Kid Rock, Keith Urban and members of Aerosmith. But critic Tom Moon says the real reason to listen is the guitar playing of the 77-year-old blues titan.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TOM MOON, BYLINE: On the two-disc "Rhythm and Blues," guitarist and vocalist Buddy Guy sums up his approach this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BUDDY GUY: (Singing) People always ask me about the blues I play. I say it just comes through me. I don't know no other way. I go by feel.

MOON: A few songs later, he trembles as he describes the nightly test of will with a common blues-culture demon.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GUY: (Singing) Whisky ghost keep on haunting me. Whisky ghost just won't let me be.

MOON: Then, working alongside Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, he rolls through a blues 101 tale of woe about getting tangled up with the wrong kind of woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVEN TYLER: (Singing) Yeah, that ain't you, baby. Well, it must've been your evil twin.

MOON: There are 21 songs on this new record, and by the time it's over, Buddy Guy and his guests have visited just about every worn-out cliche of the blues. That would make for tedious listening if he was a troubadour. But in his music, the lyrics are really just there to set the scene. The fireworks start later, after the verses, when Buddy Guy begins to play.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: Listen to that guitar, a custom Buddy Guy 1989 Fender Stratocaster. It's more than hot-wired. It sounds like it'll give you a blistering burn if you get too close. Every time he steps out here, even just for a quick ad-lib between lines, he delivers something profound.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: That guitar wisdom, dispensed so casually, is the element no producer can just order up. Buddy Guy is among the last living links to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and the other towering figures of the electric blues. And if you can't hear that in the slickness of these arrangements or the glitter from the celebrity guests, just be patient. The next guitar solo will come along in a minute or two and then, all that history will be inescapable.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GUY: (Singing) All that talk on TV is shouting about something. Nobody listening. Nobody's saying nothing. Seems like my old guitar is the only place I find the truth.

BLOCK: The new album from Buddy Guy is called "Rhythm and Blues." Our reviewer is Tom Moon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.