What a Guy! (July 30, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Nicole and I simply celebrated the great Buddy Guy’s 82nd birthday by pulling three of his nicest CDs and grooving through the afternoon (she was working on school tasks-it’s in the offing-and I was working on a novel by the great Mississippi writer Larry Brown (Joe – I’m gonna have to check out the film adaptation). Buddy, by the way, is a Louisianan by birth.

Vanguard’s A Man and the Blues has an oddly quiet vibe. I’m not sure if it’s the mix or the playing, but the effect is actually pleasurable. Guy plays precisely and thoughtfully (head-down, locked-in style), and even the rock cover and the instros, never my favorite Buddy modes, are inspired. He’s also got the great Otis Spann riding shotgun and also playing with great subtlety. My faves are the title track, “One Room Country Shack,” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Guy’s in wilder, faster gunslingin’ mode on Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues – might it be the presence of Slowhand on guit and behind the board (technically) on eight songs? It also helps that Wells, one of his favorite running buddies, is on hand, handling most of the vocals and harp, of course. Funny thing: maybe I don’t get out much, but I think Guy’s a very underappreciated vocalist, in fact, a better singer than Wells, who often sounds like he’s trying too hard to me. Patched together from two sessions (in ’70 and ’72), with Dr. John and The J. Geils Band also on hand but understanding their place.

Sweet Tea is kind of amusing: it’s catnip for the blues fan who wishes those Fat Possum records were more steady, as well as for those who wish Buddy would put a serrated edge on a record once in awhile. I’m in the latter category, and I also prefer Guy just cuttin’ the fuck loose – which is why I’m always quick to reach for it (the perfect other bookend, in this case). In case anyone hasn’t been convinced the man is a class act, he picks seven fine Fat Possum artist copyrights (courtesy Junior Kimbrough, T-Model Ford, Robert Cage and Cedell Davis) and even employs Ford’s infamous drummer Spam for the session. It doesn’t replace the originals, folks–it’s a loving, respectful homage to that label’s aesthetic.

Short-shrift Division:

Erroll Garner: Nightconcert – Newly-unearthed mid-Sixties live recording with Garner jubilantly and mischievously dancing across 16 standards. Not as rapturous as Concert by The Sea – but, goddam, that’s a tall order. (I can’t confirm that the above clip is from the same show, but it’s the same vintage.)

Hermeto Pascoal: Cérebro Magnético – Who is this guy? I can’t quit listening long enough to do a little research beyond that he’s Brazilian and he’s a brave experimenter.

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