Release date: September 30, 2022
By Marty Gunther
Buddy Guy at Blues on the Fox Fest 2022/ Photo: by Dianne Bruce Dunklau
Sure, Buddy Guy’s 86 years old and recently announced dates for a farewell tour, but fear not! The ageless wonder fires on all cylinders with this sensational CD, a 16-song, 64-minute, star-studded effort that’s destined to add even more luster to one of the most successful careers in blues history.
A 38-time Blues Music Award honoree, Buddy reunites here with producer, drummer and tunesmith Tom Hambridge in a continuation of the partnership that’s propelled his career to new heights since 2008, when their Skin Deep CD debuted and went on to capture contemporary album and album-of-the-year honors and a Grammy nomination, too.
That disc laid down the groundwork of what was to follow. The duo’s seventh release, The Blues Don’t Lie follows the same path as its two most recent predecessors, 2015’s Born to Play Guitar and 2018’s The Blues Is Alive and Well, both of which debuted at the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s blues album charts before dominating the following awards season, something previously achieved with 2010’s Living Proof.
After one listen to this one, it’ll be no surprise if it follows suit.
Recorded by Ducky Carlisle at Blackbird Studios in Nashville with additional tracks laid down at Chicago Recording Co. in Illinois; The Barn in Washington, Mass.; and Purple House Studio in Leipers Fork, Tenn.; Buddy shines on six-string and his warm voice is intimate and soothing throughout – joined by an all-star cast that includes Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, Bobby Rush, Jason Isbell, Wendy Moten, all of whom take a turn on the mic.
The lineup also includes Rob McNelley, Michael Saint-Leon, Taylor and Isbell on guitars, Reese Wynans and Kevin McKendree on keys, Max Abrams and Steve Patrick on horns and Michael Rhodes and Glenn Worf on bass. Hambridge – who penned 13 of the originals in partnership with Buddy, Richard Fleming, Gary Nicholson and Bill Sweeney or solo -- handles percussion throughout. Mike Hicks sits in on backing vocals on one track, and Rush lends his harmonica talents, too.
The album explodes out of the gate with the driving, autobiographical “I Let My Guitar Do the Talking,” on which Buddy describes himself as someone who toiled hard and made his own rules to succeed with only a sixth-grade education. He doesn’t always speak up; he prefers to let “my fingers do the talkin’,”– something he drives home with a soaring solo. It gives way for “Blues Don’t Lie,” a quiet, unhurried shuffle that recounts his emotions in the late ‘60s, when Buddy lost both his parents and Sonny Boy Williamson announced his departure from Chicago to go back to Little Rock, Ark., to die.
The Guy original, “The World Needs Love,” opens with 55 seconds of searing guitar pyrotechnics before slowing down for vocals that deliver a plea for an end to all the hurt and killing infesting the planet today; it features another two minutes of emotion-drenched fretwork before the lyrical coda. “We Go Back,” a duet with Mavis, is another number with somber overtones. It provides a flashback to the assassination of Martin Luther King and reflects on the continuing fight for civil rights. Staples stresses the need to continue the battle: “Times were bad, but what a time we had. We go back to where the blues was everywhere, fighting to get our share.”
Costello provides backup to Buddy’s vocals on the romantic “Symptoms of Love,” which percolates throughout, before yielding to James Taylor for “Follow the Money,” a funky complaint about the trail of evidence left behind by cheats, robbers and folks on the take. The sounds of the Delta surface to open “Well Enough Alone.” In that one, Guy says, he’s crossed “a mojo hand with a black cat bone,” realizes his error and believes it’s time to hightail it back home.
Things get even more funky as Rush trades verses with Buddy and lays down a little harp on “What’s Wrong with That?” It’s a downhome demand that there should be no complaint from anyone when you demand exactly what you want -- like “my bacon crispy, my pancakes cooked up right.” But things get serious again with Isbell in tow for “Gunsmoke Blues,” which opens quietly before yearning for an end to the violence that’s threatening the lives of innocents at schools, churches and more.
In need of a break? Good times abound in the loping “House Party,” which follows, as Bud
dy and Moten, a former finalist on The Voice, describe joys of celebrating from dusk to dawn. Six more pleasers follow, beginning with a cover B.B. King’s “Sweet Thing,” which teams with the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling” to bookend “Back Door Scratchin’,” a song of burning desire. Two more originals – the passionate “Rabbit Blood” and silky smooth “Last Call” -- precede a solo acoustic take on Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” to close.
Like the gilded outer rim and type on this black CD, The Blues Don’t Lie is 24-carat gold from beginning to end. Run, don’t walk to buy this one. It’s a true-blue treasure!
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About the Author: The blues came calling for Marty Gunther in the 1960s, when he witnessed Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf perform at the Newport festivals in his native Rhode Island. A longtime Chicagoan who's now based out of Charlotte, N.C., he's a professional journalist and harp player who studied under Sugar Blue before co-founding the Nucklebusters, a band that's filled clubs in south Florida since the '80s.