Well, at the risk of sounding redundant, the title says it all. Buddy Guy — a man whose name is synonymous with the blues, a true master of his instrument and a purveyor of his art form for well over half a century — is most certainly alive and well.
“The Blues Is Alive And Well” is an odyssey in the style of classic albums and a true affirmation of one man’s joy of his pursuit. I will admit I was alarmed by the typical 12-bar blues format on the first two tracks. The all-too-traditional sound can sometimes overshadow even the best players. However, Buddy Guy’s true asset resonates quickly, his style. His undeniable character, in both his voice and guitar, shake off any suspicion of a mundane blues album as soon as they hit.
His vocal vibrato during “A Few Good Years” haunt and hypnotize as they draw us into the blues journey. Track 3 “Cognac” is where Buddy really puts the fuel to the fire. Featuring Jeff Beck and Keith Richards, there’s no shortage of blues inspiration on this track. Every one of Jeff Beck’s riffs are perfectly indicative of the song’s title. His licks are like a drunken tap dancer stumbling down the streets of New Orleans, faltering and yet always landing perfectly in time. This song is a blues gem.
Title track “The Blues Is Alive And Well” brings a warm, buttery, Rhodes-driven funk groove. Reminiscent of an Al Green-blues hybridization with complementary crushing horn lines, Buddy’s sincerity and impeccable delivery with his vocals are highlighted here. “Blue No More” is the quintessential blues song on the album. It’s just a phenomenally honest and superb performance from both Buddy Guy and James Bay. This is the track where Buddy’s reality really starts to sink in. From here on out, the breadth of his human experience and musical journey pull the listener in like an audio biography. Conveying more than 85 years of ups and downs in such a relatable way is a monumental achievement. The remaining songs are solemn and joyful, poignant and silly, reflective and inspiring, everything a man could hope to look back on a lifetime and see. The blues are indeed alive and well, Buddy, and we have artists like you to thank for it.
– A native of Lake Tahoe, author Dan Green has two bands, Ten Foot Tiger and Black Star Safari. He now lives in Sacramento.
- Buddy Guy
‘The Blues Is Alive And Well’
Release: June 15, 2018
Label: Silvertone Records
Favorite tracks: ‘Cognac,’ Blue No More’