Buddy Guy: Can’t Quit the Blues – Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Eric Clapton, et al. – Legacy 3 CD + 1 DVD set
Published on November 22, 2006
I can’t imagine any hardcore fan of the blues passing this one up. Released on the occasion of Buddy Guy’s 70th birthday, it presents a rocking, howling, wailing, and riotous compendium of Guy’s (nearly) 50-year career as one of the key proponents of Chicago blues. This meal of blues even boasts an appetizer, a DVD of 11 live performances and a 90-minute documentary called My Time After Awhile. The first three CD cuts are pleasant set pieces from the fifties, but the set really takes off with the Chess singles from the sixties, like First Time I Met the Blues (1960). He’s clearly on the way to forging his immortal style. The bands are tight with spectacular foot-stomping upbeats.
Moaning numbers like Stone Crazy and When My Left Eye Jumps show his considerable guitar skills, particularly in the instrumental interludes. He gives just enough, doesn’t overdo it like so many white imitators. With Hoodoo Man Blues, we hear the first collaboration with the redoubtable Junior Wells. Wells was famous for singing like he’s on fire and playing the meanest blues harmonica. Too bad there isn’t more of him. Another stage-burning collaborator is Shemekia Copeland, a recent star in her own right. She does a duet with Guy called I Miss You (2005) that bubbles and seethes like early Ike and Tina Turner. There are cuts of him playing with Bill Wyman, Keith Richards, Dr. John, and Eric Clapton, who once said Guy was the best guitarist he ever heard.
What about the DVD? It’s okay, I’m glad it’s in the collection. But it could have been better. Visually, My Time After Awhile went overboard with Guy as lead talking head, although his anecdotes are humorous. They could have folded in more black and white footage of smokey clubs. The 11 live performance cuts show Guy’s compelling stage presence, particularly the ones with Junior Wells. But they start at 1974. Were there none available from the sixties?
The last CD in the set, covering this decade, is no less gripping than the others. His acoustic rendition of Done Got Old may give you the chills, particularly if you’ve passed a certain age. There are three other tasty cuts from Sweet Tea, his acoustic tribute to his Delta roots. The liner notes include a timeline and an informative tribute by Anthony DeCurtis, but alas, no cut-by-cut analysis of the songs as on Legacy’s Fats Waller compilation, If You Got To Ask, You Ain’t Got It! Great music here. My wife has a category for it: “traveling music,” because it’s best played in a car. Can’t Quit the Blues is guaranteed to sweeten those traffic jams spawned from hell!
– Peter Bates