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Buddy Guy - “The Blues Is Alive and Well” (2018) review


Buddy Guy - The Blues Is Alive and Well (2018)

On The Blues Is Alive And Well Buddy Guy delivers a rather extensive collection of material, one containing fifteen tracks and clocking in at nearly sixty-five minutes of groove laden music.

This man has been walking the planet for nearly 85 years, this is a man who’s been selling his brand of blues for nearly that long, and this is a man who has met the music world on his own terms, with countless musicians attempting to follow in both his traditions and his footsteps. So why on earth does he need the likes Keith Richards or Jeff Beck to stand there trading solos with him? And these men have added more to this album than the songs they play on, with their recording suggestions and so-called advice. Does Mr. Guy not realize that he doesn’t need Richards or Beck to lend their name in order to help him sell records? Are their not enough black artists out there who share Buddy Guy’s history passion and perspective without resorting to latter-day come alongs? Of course Muddy Waters has moved on, and his licks would have made this album a brighter gem, but please, again, there is an amazing amount of talent out there, yet Mick Jagger was also brought in to blow harp, causing me to scratch my head as I read the hyper-stick “With Special Guests …” when he could have just as easily used authentic blues artists such as Charlie Musselwhite or Al Kooper if he wanted white men.

Yes, Buddy Guy has always assembled a band for his albums, and here he’s assembled the seamless best from the Muscle Shoals players, and that just causes me to wonder why he couldn’t have used the Muscle Shoals players exclusively. I’ll put my finger down any day of the week and say that any professional session musicians like those of The Wrecking Crew or Muscle Shoals are hands down finer players than Richards, Beck, or Jagger will ever be, as those professionals know how to step in and nudge an artist forward, they understand that the nature of their job is not to show off but to enhance, to lace the music with an interplay of skill and knowledge of countless styles and applications that they can bring forward for a sound that would encapsulate and add to Guy’s visions, rather than as with these aforementioned rock stars, simply giving us a history lesson of things that inspired them, meaning that we’re really not getting a fresh Buddy Guy album at all. 

Buddy Guy’s music has always been bone chilling, filled with emotional intensity, he’s an artist who has re-envisioned the guitar and the blues, able to write, sing, and play in a manner few have been able to master. There is life to this outing, though I for one would love to hear it re-done without those rock stars, as none of them have any idea what true blues is, because they’ve never lived it, all they have succeeded in doing here is to make Buddy Guy sound like a white man’s parody of himself … leaving the ghosts of Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Willians, John Lee Hooker and BB King huddled in the corner, slapping each other on the back saying, “Buddy, you don’t need no James Bay to be laying down duets with you, these people owe you everything, and they’ve turned you into a musical has-been sideshow.”

So while the album is certainly good, it’s by no means a Buddy Guy album by any stretch of the imagination. The only thing I can hope for is that Buddy Guy has time for one more true Buddy Guy album, where he and his music stand alone, while standing the test of time.

- Jenell Kesler
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