The Blues Don’t Lie
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2022
Some things are worthy of repeating, and this is indeed one of them. Back in June of 2018, I opened my review of Buddy Guy’s The Blues Is Alive And Well album with the following thoughts: “So, with the release of Buddy Guy’s new CD titled “The Blues Is Alive And Well”, I’m guessing that the rest of the genre’s artists are pretty much thinking “Oh God, there go five or six categories in any upcoming blues awards programs right out the window”. And from what I just heard, that should be a legitimate concern.” That said, just change the title of the album to The Blues Don’t Lie, and my thoughts remain the same.
Interestingly enough, one of the songs from that release featured Buddy asking the Lord to bless him with “A Few Good Years”, and by God – no pun intended – the good Lord listened. At eighty-six years young, Buddy’s still headlining events all over the world. “Hey Buddy, if I mention your name do you think I could get hooked up with a few more years for myself as well? I’m gonna need them to be around to review your 2025 release”.
On The Blues Don’t Lie, what the information included with the disc is calling Buddy’s fiftieth release, Buddy Guy – on vocals, and electric and acoustic guitars – is joined by: longtime friend and producer Tom Hambridge on drums, percussion, tambourine and background vocals; Reese Wynans on B3, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes and piano; Michael Rhodes and Glenn Worf on bass; Rob McNelley on electric guitar; Max Abrams and Steve Patrick on horns; Michael Saint-Leon on low end guitar; Kevin McKendree on piano, Wurlitzer and B3; Mavis Staples, James Taylor and Wendy Moten on vocals; Bobby Rush on vocals and harmonica; Jason Isbell on vocals and electric guitar; and Mike Hicks and Elvis Costello on background vocals. As those credits indicate, this disc is loaded with good music. To be exact, the tracks number sixteen, with fourteen originals (which I’ll credit later) and two covers.
The disc opens with a smoker titled “I Let My Guitar Do the Talking”, one of the tracks written by Buddy and Tom. As Buddy tells of leaving Louisiana to head to Chicago some sixty years ago, with “nobody giving him nothing” and only having a sixth-grade education stop him from anything. When he lost his ways, he just let his fingers do the walking and his guitar do the talking and, hot damn, there’s a hell of a lot of very powerful and extremely aggressive talking going on right here. Also doing lots of talking is the thunderous rhythm from Tom and Michael becoming a monstrous rhythm with the addition of Reese’s B3 and the horns of Max and Steve.
Things slow down a whole lot on the title track, a slow blues scorcher of Tom’s titled “The Blues Don’t Lie”. On these types of songs, next to hearing him play, there’s nothing like hearing Buddy sing a story. His voice is compelling, his style is masterful, and the lyrics he sings – his or not – are so impactful. His take on hardships is simple…..”Life is gonna happen whether you’re ready or not. Like a thief in the night, it’s gonna steal the last cent you got. There’s nowhere to hide and the blues don’t lie“. Now if you’re not yet feeling those lyrics, Buddy’s accompanying scorching guitar licks will surely change that.
On a similar track, which he wrote, Buddy speaks the truth when he says, “The World Needs Love”. This is my kind of Buddy doing my kind of music. When it comes to belting the hell out of a slow blues ballad, while making the hair on my arms stand at attention with stinging guitar leads, there is no one better. Of course, these songs work so much better when the rhythm section is nailing the pocket and that’s exactly what Tom, Glenn, Kevin and Rob are doing on the drums, bass, piano and second guitar.
“A cup of coffee cost a nickel, a newspaper sold for a dime.
A dollar bought a pack of smokes, and a bottle of Mad Dog wine.
We go back, when the blues were everywhere.
We go back, to finding it hard to get our share.
Times were bad but what a time we had.
We go back, way way back”.
Although it’s not their song, it’s definitely their story. “We Go Back” (Hambridge/Fleming) features Buddy and Mavis sharing their moving views and painful stories of their past. Although Bobby’s list is a bit more risqué than Buddy’s – go figure, this playful duet with humorous lyrics features Bobby Rush and Buddy Guy going toe to toe listing things they like. While one makes his statement, the other replies with “What’s Wrong with That?” (Hambridge/ Fleming). One of my favorite lines is when right after Buddy does a scorching guitar riff, right on queue Bobby says “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that”. Of course, when Bobby Rush is involved a lot of soul and some funk cannot be far behind and the band indeed showed up for that.
“Gunsmoke Blues” (Hambridge/Fleming) does not take place in Dodge City, and it doesn’t feature Marshal Dillon, “Doc” Adams or “Kitty” Russell. With lyrics like
“Trouble down at the high school, someone got the gunsmoke blues;
Over at the house of worship, people praying to the Lord.
The gunsmoke blues come calling, God’s people ain’t here no more”
this rendition is taking place in cities and schools all over the country and it stars real life characters, using real life guns, to kill real life people, on pretty much a day-to-day basis. This topical ballad features Buddy Guy and Jason Isbell swapping melancholic truths and torrid guitar leads, while the rest of the band is in a perfectly eerie groove behind them. Perhaps the most powerful line of the track is each of them taking turns saying:
“Some folks blame the shooter, other folks blame the gun.
That don’t stop the bullets, and more bloodshed to come.
A million thoughts and prayers won’t bring back anyone.”
Buddy and B. B. – man, does it get any better than that? Of course not. Just the mention of those two names in the same sentence send chills down my spine. Just thinking of where to start if I wanted to collectively talk about them is useless, so I won’t dare try. What I will tell you is this is Buddy Guy flawlessly singing “Sweet Thing” (King/Josea) just like B. B. himself would have sung it. That’s how royalty acknowledges royalty.
This song features Buddy describing some characteristics that relate to the title of the song being called “Rabbit Blood” (Hambridge/Fleming) and although I’d give the song a PG rating, I’m just going to tell you that you need to hear it yourself and leave it at that. What I will tell you that with it being one of many songs that feature Kevin McKendree on piano, it does feature some of his disc’s best work. Now that’s a mouthful.
The disc closes with a short, solo acoustic version of “King Bee” (Moore). That said, a silky smooth and very persuasive Buddy doesn’t need a whole lot of time convincing an innocent female bee that she needs to be his queen.
Other tracks on yet another classic Buddy Guy release include: “Symptoms of Love” (Hambridge/Fleming); “Follow the Money” (Hambridge/Nicholson); “Well Enough Alone” (Hambridge/Fleming); “House Party” (Hambridge/Fleming); “Back Door Scratchin'” (Hambridge/Nicholson); “I’ve Got a Feeling” (Lennon/McCartney); and “Last Call” (Hambridge/Sweeney).
Should any of you actually need to find out more about Buddy Guy, just go to – www.buddyguy.net. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you talk to, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
“The Blues Is My Passion And Therapy”
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award Recipient