Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy has not disappeared into the mists of Lake Michigan. Trouble is, the man even Eric Clapton once called “the best guitar player alive” seems to have more trouble getting recorded than a bogus Florida land deed. Now comes his first album in more than a decade and, happily, the wait hasn’t been wasted.
Blues performers sometimes seem to wear their age better than others—maybe because all those songs of hard knocks and lonely nights ring just a bit truer when the singer shows some mileage. So, too, with Guy. Now 55, he played sideman in the 1950s to blues granddaddies Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, partnered with harpist Junior Wells in the ’60s and inspired a generation of Brit blues-rockers like Clapton and Jeff Beck.
Both Clapton and Beck join him briefly here (the latter on a feisty, Motownian rendition of “Mustang Sally”), as does Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. But this is no all-star showcase in which younger players prop up Pop. It is Guy’s own knowing voice and whining Strat that carry the album from puckish, woman-done-me-bad blues like “Five Long Years” to achingly gentle laments like “Black Night.”
The finale is the clincher—a moving instrumental tribute to Guy’s longtime buddy, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom Guy had accompanied onstage an hour before Vaughan died in a 1990 helicopter crash. (Silvertone)