Saturday, December 13, 2008

... and while I'm on the subject--

A word or two on Buddy Guy... the last of the best.

The term "Chicago Blues" is an odd one. It has little meaning outside of the studio that used to be located at 2120 South Michigan Avenue. The term has been bleached white and co-opted by the departed-- the likes of Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield. But they picked up damned near everything they played by listening to Little Walter, Muddy and the Wolf, Herbert Sumlin and Otis Spann. And the boss, Willie Dixon. The listeners and "borrowers" are long gone. And so are the originators. They didn't start off in the Windy City but man, they put it on the map. The Southside became legendary, not just for nasty ass bars and dangerously dark streets, but for the place where the real blues were played, loud and sweaty, mean and honest. One of the seminal recordings of the day was Muddy Waters' Folk Singer album. It was put out on Chess to cash in on the folk craze, but it transcended the exploitation to become one of the true classics. Listen to it today. It is as fresh and urgent as it was when it came out. Maybe urgent isn't the right word, because it takes its time with getting the message out. My Home is on the Delta. Damned right. There are only two musicians backing up Muddy-- Willie Dixon on bass and a very young Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar. A lot has happened between then and now. Buddy is the last man standing. I've seen him play when he has taunted the audience as he played his signature Strat, tethered on a fifty foot cord. "You wanna hear a little Hendrix?" He asks and then throws off Voodoo Chile like it was his. And maybe it was. "What about Eric? Eric Clapton?" Bam! Strange Brew, like that. "Stevie Ray?" And he hits the toggle and dials in the unmistakable SRV. And the kick is, it's all him. The riffs haven't slowed down any. He plays like greased lightening on steroids. His hair is gone and his face is lined. His age shows... until he turns up the volume knob and blows the place away. Like Muddy had Chivas, Buddy refueled on Hennesey onstage. Maybe he still does. It must as well be lighter fluid. He catches it and channels it into the polka dot solid body he caresses like a lover. Hell, it's more faithful than most. If he is playing within a 50 mile radius of where you live, go see him. His time ain't long and if you miss him, what are you gonna tell your kids? You heard about the blues? Hell, no. I'm talking about the end of not just a generation but a true and honest musical genre. It's going to be buried with Buddy. He's the last of the best.

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