Preaching the Blues

Good blues is like a good sermon. It lifts you up when you’re down, comforts you when you’re hurting, heals you when you’re in pain, tells you when you’ve done somebody wrong. And a good blues musician, like a good preacher, feeds off the energy of the audience, and returns it in the message—the music. As a result, live recordings are almost always better than studio recordings.

Two recent recordings are a real treat, each highlighting a blues musician instrumental in moving the music from where they inherited it to a higher level: They learned from what they heard, added their own creative genius, and passed it on better than they found it.

The Real Deal, by Buddy Guy with G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band, is an affirmation of four decades of Guy’s work. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, now a longtime resident of Chicago, Guy is a major figure in the blues world.

Recorded live at his club, Legends, in Chicago in May 1994, the set ranges from "First Time I Met the Blues"—Buddy’s first Chess single in 1964—to a rousing finale of Willie Dixon’s "Let Me Love You Baby." For classic Buddy Guy guitar playing, the title song of his 1991 Grammy-winning recording, "Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues," can’t be beat. The recording also includes a slow, melodic love song, "Sweet Black Angel," and a rousing cover of Elmore James’ "Talk to Me Baby."

The nine songs are a well-chosen set that shows all of Guy’s stylings and moods. It’s a taste of Guy’s lead guitar playing—descending chord progressions and soaring runs combined with his growling, shouting vocals. The live recording captures his interaction with the audience—Guy shouting "I’ve got the blues, can I keep on going?" with an enthusiastic audience responding.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1997
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