Buddy Guy - The Blues Don't Lie (2022) - Album Review
By Paul Rigg
Still Making Blues History
Buddy Guy, now 86, has had the blues in his blood since he first picked cotton as a boy in Louisiana and made his own guitar with a couple of scraps of farm wire and a piece of wood. When he was 21 he famously travelled north to Chicago with not much more than his guitar, and met with Muddy Waters, to develop his unique style. All of which is to say that when Guy releases an album entitled The Blues Don’t Lie (30 September 2022; RCA Records), you’d better believe it!
Despite the eight-time Grammy award winner’s age, and the fact that he now pretty much stands alone from those Chicago blues’ days, he is still capable of banging out songs that showcase his great voice and guitar playing. Teaming up again with longtime drummer, songwriter and friend Tom Hambridge, the duo have produced 16 tracks, of which six feature special guests Mavis Staples, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Reese Wynans, Jason Isbell and Bobby Rush. With this clutch of powerful and diverse songs, backed by artists of that pedigree, Guy could well be looking forward to Grammy number nine.
If you’d like to give yourself a treat, take the time now to listen to Guy’s ‘life story made song’ in the rollicking opener I Let My Guitar Do The Talking. It is fun, funky and heartfelt – and everything about it spells class. Guy appropriately includes a searing one-minute guitar solo, possibly on his custom shop Stratocaster, in case anyone was unclear about the song’s message. The result is celebratory.
The title track, The Blues Don’t Lie, maintains the level, this time with a more laid-back groove that serves as a backdrop for Guy’s tale of woe. The World Needs Love is even more chilled, but is hindered by the unfortunate recurring lyric “the world needs love like the forest needs the rain”. On the next cut, We Go Back, Guy partners with Mavis Staples, to return to the period around the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., which he emotionally recalls “I can see it in my mind, I can still hear it in my ears.”
Follow The Money, with James Taylor, is a gentle and enjoyable romp, though Jason Isbell’s contribution to Gunsmoke Blues produces a much more powerful result. This is partly because the subject is an attack on America’s gun violence but also because Guy shines on both guitar and vocals. “A million thoughts and prayers, Won’t bring back anyone” they repeat in turn, as the song fades out.
On Rabbit Blood and Back Door Scratchin’ Guy plays with euphemisms to cheekily suggest that the years have not dimmed his appetite for life.
The album also includes covers of B.B. King’s Sweet Thing, Slim Harpo’s I’m A King Bee, and, a funked-up version of Lennon and McCartney’s I’ve Got A Feeling; of which I much preferred King Bee. In this version, which appropriately closes the album, Guy’s voice is accompanied by an acoustic guitar, which provides a simple and refreshing contrast to what comes before.
It also emphasizes the fact that even after all the years since Guy first fashioned a makeshift instrument from some old farm wire as a boy, the guitar is still in his hands, and he is still making blues history.