“Born to Play Guitar”
by JIM KAMM
DJ of “Top-Shelf Blues,” Tuesdays at 10pm EST
The album’s cover photo is of a blues legend playing the guitar with his teeth, which makes it loud and clear that this Guy isn’t ready to fold any time soon. Hell, it was released on his 79th birthday.
Listening to the music, you’d swear this is the playing of a man half his age. Yet he croons and brags, deservedly, about a long life with the blues — well-lived and keenly observed. As he tells us unabashedly, at the beginning of the opening title track: “I got a reputation, and everybody knows my name; I was born to play the guitar, people: I got blues runnin’ through my veins.” And the album that follows demonstrates that he ain’t lyin’.
Much of Guy’s early career was spent as a sideman to some of the best, including Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and his star only started to rise during the British Invasion, when Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Richards, Beck and others stepped forward to let the world know his influence. Decades later, as the blues rose up, so did his career, and he became a permanent staple of the circuit, at long last.
Buddy Guy is not one to shy away from naughtiness (“Back Up Mama”), nor is he one to stand still musically. A duet with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, “Wear You Out” warns us that he has the staying power — and perhaps the erotic power — of a classic axe or a muscle-car engine. Other collaborators include Kim Wilson (“Too Late” and the indefensibly cute “Kiss Me Quick”), Joss Stone on the light shuffle “(Baby) You Got What it Takes,” and Van Morrison on “Flesh & Bone,” which he dedicates to the recently-lost B.B. King.
The blues are held responsible for his penchant for partying (“Turn Me Wild,” “Whiskey, Beer & Wine,” and the romping single, “Thick Like Mississippi Mud”), but also are the perfect expression of what he’s seen and where he’s been (“Crazy World,” “Smarter Than I Was”). Finally, he laments the past with the poignant “Come Back Muddy,” showing us that his unchained energy for the future will never make him forget the great depth of his feelings for his fellow legends. If you pick up one blues album this year, “Born to Play Guitar,” is money well-spent.