Buddy Guy – The Blues Don’t Lie
16 tracks/63 minutes
“And the winner of the 2023 Blues Blast Music Award for Best Traditional (or Contemporary or whatever category you’d like to put it in) Blues Album of the Year is…Buddy Guy– The Blues Don’t Lie!” Any year Buddy Guy releases a new album, the first thing I think of is, “Well, he’s got another award wrapped up.” But I’m sorry; I’m getting ahead of myself.
Buddy returns to producing albums with Tom Hambridge. Tom wrote eleven of the 16 tracks for this album. Buddy wrote two himself (perhaps the best two on the CD) and there are also three excellent covers included here. Sixteen tracks– over an hour of music. At 86, Buddy is still going at it full force with lots and lots of new music and giving it his all. Why would anyone expect less? And to add to the enjoyment, we get to also have a half dozen superb artists perform with him on this new album.
The players here, in addition to Buddy, are Tom Hambridge on drums and percussion, Michael Rhodes and Glenn Worf share the bass duties, Kevin McKendrie and Reese Wynans alternate on the various keyboard instruments, Rob McNelley adds his guitar, Max Abrams and Steve Patrick are the horn section, and track 2 features Michael Saint-Leon on Low End Guitar and Mike Hicks on Background Vocals. Guest appearances by Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, Bobby Rush, Jason Isbell and Wendy Moten round out this pretty much all star affair. What a set of players and singers!
The album begins with a rousing and driving “I Let My Guitar Do the Talking” and he certainly does. The song includes a big production sound, horns and all the bells and whistles for a great and memorable song. Buddy is as spry and slick performing here as he ever was in this song he wrote.
A very cool slow blues follows, “Blues Don’t Lie.” Guy sings with passion as he glides effortlessly through this song with some ethereal guitar and with backing vocals, organ and horns making it even better. “The World Needs Love” follows, the second cut Guy wrote here and it’s a big, slow Chicago blues done only as Buddy can. He emotes vocally, he emotes on his guitar, he brings it with a fierce and fiery performance. Mavis appears in the soul blues “We Go Back.” The duet between her and Buddy is truly superb; intensely emotional, full of feeling; I loved it.
Elvis Costello appears on the next cut “Symptoms of Love.” Costello howls with the symptoms of love as Guy delivers another winner with Elvis’ assistance. “Follow The Money” features James Taylor who, like Costello, takes a backing vocal role to Buddy. Next is “Well Enough Alone,” which starts as a stripped down blues with guitar and Buddy delivering a down home intro. Then things pick up as Buddy and the band rip into what they should have left well enough alone. The guitar stings and the organ blazes as Guy testifies to his errors. Bobby Rush assists on “What’s Wrong With That” and Buddy and Bobby tells us what makes them happy; crispy bacon, places to put your cigar, being lazy laying around with your woman or whatever it is. Both of these guys have been around and don’t have time to waste with things they don’t like and they won’t make excuses about liking them.
Jason Isbell appears in the social commentary about our gun problem killing our youth. Buddy and Jason rail about the injustice of people killing innocent people and we do nothing to stop them. The boogie with Wendy Moten is a fun cut; “House Party” describes having said party until dawn. The card game is going on, the gumbo is on the stove, he’s getting to meet the local young lovelies and everyone is having a great time. B.B. King’s “Sweet Thing” follows that, with Buddy and his guitar wailing and moaning as they play off each other; really good stuff! “Back Door Scratchin’” is next, a cut where Buddy is the old dog scratching at the back door until he gets in for a taste.
The John Lennon Beatle cut “I’ve Got a Felling” gets worked over into a beautiful mid-tempo blues by Guy and it’s damned good. “Rabbit Blood” is a slow blues about his girl wanting to do things like bunnies do; ‘nuff said there. “Last Call” is a not a bar song but an end of relationship tune as Guy tells his women he’s done with both his drink and her. He concludes with a solo version of “King Bee” where he plays acoustic guitar and sings with somberness and feeling. It’s pretty damn cool.
While it’s almost a given that Buddy wins when he releases something, next year it will be because it’s truly well deserved. For me, this is his best album since 2001’s Sweet Tea and it is close to being one of his best; it is a flawless effort. This is a superb album and it is well worth adding to any blues lover’s collection.