The first track on Buddy Guy’s new album consists of an excited MC introducing the great bluesman on stage at his own club in Chicago back in January 2010. Guy was making his final appearance at Legends, which has since closed.
“It’s show time…!” he yells. “And it’s time for the legend himself, the multi-Grammy award-winner, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-r, the baddest muthaf**** in town…”
At the time, Guy was 73. But the intro sums up the man’s continuing appeal.
He’s one of the greatest living bluesmen, and also a hero to rock audiences thanks to his furious and passionate guitar playing and vocal style. He delivers no-nonsense energy and enthusiasm, as well as expertise, and his talents have not faded over the years.
His aim on this particular evening was to mix his own songs with reminders of how the blues were transformed by British artists like Eric Clapton.
He opens with an energetic treatment of his own Best Damn Fool, taken from 2008’s Skin Deep album. And right from the start his rousing, rough and ready, wailing guitar style is as distinctive as ever.
So too is his vocal work – and his ability to switch from full-tilt passages to quiet, thoughtful vocals. He demonstrates this superbly on the soulful title track from Skin Deep.
The real surprises come with his exploration of blues styles that influenced the British blues boom of the 60s and 70s.
There’s a stomping version of the Muddy Waters favourite Mannish Boy, which is constructed around one of the all-time classic blues-rock riffs, and an enthusiastic treatment of Willie Dixon’s I Just Want To Make Love To You, famously covered by both Waters and The Rolling Stones.
Then there’s a sequence in which John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom segues into Cream’s Strange Brew, with the audience joining in. This is followed by a treatment of Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile that eases into another Cream classic, Sunshine of Your Love.
Surprisingly, there are only seven live tracks – the final three are previously unreleased studio recordings from the acclaimed Living Proof sessions, recorded later in 2010.
They provide further proof of Guy’s ageless appeal.