Not Your Average Blues Guy

Buddy Guy - Heavy Love
(Silvertone Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

With a staggering array of rock guitar-gods sighting him as a major influence on their own music, a list that includes Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen, Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughn, it's amazing that legend Buddy Guy could have any reason to still be singing the blues, a music that, more often than not, focuses on life's more saddening experiences. But as Guy's latest album Heavy Love attests, he's not only still playin' em, but redefining them as well.
Growing up in the bayou country of Louisiana in the forties, Guy became infatuated with the sounds of Delta-blues stars Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf, blaring out of the cheap phonograph his sharecropping father had purchased from a profitable year of farming. It wasn't long before he picked up the guitar and started emulating the sounds of his heroes. By the time he turned 21 Guy packed his bag and six-string and headed north to Chicago to fulfill his dream to buy his first drink (at the legal age of 21) and see Muddy Waters play live; Waters then recording for the influential Chess label. Not only did Guy get to to see Waters play but was eventually brought under his wing and was ultimately asked to join his band.
Guy began his own solo recording career with Chess in 1960. This venture lasted seven years, and saw the releases of his own Chicago-styled, electric blues singles such as "First Time I Met The Blues", "Stone Crazy" and "Keep It To Myself". In 1968 he moved to the Vanguard label where he released the classic A Man & The Blues as well as other strong albums. The seventies and eighties, however, weren't as kind to Guy, or to the blues in general for that matter. His sagging career was invigorated in 1990 by longtime fan Eric Clapton, who requested him to join his blues guitar lineup, which was preserved on Clapton's 24 Nights live album.
Since that time Guy has garnered 4 Grammys, opened up a lucrative blues nightclub / restaurant in Chicago, and has contributed to charitable foundations including the American Cancer Society, as well as setting up The Buddy Guy Foundation, which helps pay for the tombstones of long forgotten blues musicians, giving them the respect Guy feels they deserved in life.
Now in his forty-two years of playing professionally, Guy is now one of the few remaining pioneering blues artists alive today, standing proud next to B.B. King and John Lee Hooker.
On his latest offering Heavy Love, Guy proves that he can live up to his, often referred to, title as the 'father of the blues', playing raw, energetic music that is bound to please blues-purists as well as throwing enough new ingredients into the stewpot to appeal to the tastes of a younger generation of fans.
The title track "Heavy Love" opens up with a greasy guitar lick that sizzles over a updated funky rhythm section like a slab of back-bacon on a hot iron skillet. His soulful vocals and stuttering, wailing guitar style hearkens back to his early Chess days on "I Got A Problem" , while he incorporates the raw talent of 17 year-old blues wonder-kid Jonny Lang on the raucous "Midnight Train" (A wise move which will undoubtedly catch the attention of a younger, white rock audience). Not one to shy away from his mentors and contemporaries, Guy faithfully covers Willie Dixon's now infamous number "I Just Want To Make Love To You", as well as Louis Jordan's rousing boogie-woogie infused "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and ZZ Top's reflective "I Need You Tonight". With a lethal, smokin'-gun blues guitar solo on "Had A Bad Night" it's easy to understand what Stevie Ray meant when he said, "Without Buddy Guy, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughn."
But then again, without Buddy Guy, the blues, not to mention rock as we know it, might be a heckuva lot less interesting today.

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