You can’t hear a birth certificate through a pair of speakers and so there’s no way that you can tell that the dude making his guitar scream like a pissed off banshee is in his mid 70s.
But then there’s his voice, a Baptist-filtered-through-juke-joint vehicle of good times and naughtiness that smooths the rough edge.
Buddy Guy had the right timing to record a performance at his own Chicago club before it shut down in 2010. The resulting disc, Live at Legends, is right in tune with his celebrated spontaneity.
An award winning musician, most recently honoured at the White House, whose work was once described as “noise” by a pioneering record man, Guy embodies blues integrity. His abandon is undiminished at 76.
Live at Legends rocks; he sounds loud, and it’s a party. Guy’s unpredictable playing straddles the thin space between mid-period blues and early rock.
Guy’s edge city soloing reveals him to be the blues equivalent of Jimmy Page and Neil Young — he just never holds back. His reckless phrasing and exploratory sonic searching are always framed in relatable tunes.
The deep soul of Guy’s vocal, one of the most overlooked in blues and rock and roll, shines through on the autobiographical Skin Deep, a tender address to racial intolerance (on which he plays electric sitar!)
It’s an easy calm in the storm though, as Guy knows how to give the crowd an amped up show. It’s not reverent, not where it counts anyway.
I Just Want to Make Love to You is funny and self deprecating, reaching out to the audience and drawing them in easily. His personality comes through and links his character with the music.
In a high powered primer, he and his band run through a quick medley linking John Lee Hooker, Cream and Jimi Hendrix to give his crowd an education on blues rock heritage.
But with this recording, all anybody needs is him.
— Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician and freelance writer who writes CD reviews for The Morning Star.