Posts Tagged ‘Buddy Guy’

Buddy Guy: Chicago blues, alive and real

May 7, 2008

This week I’m revisiting another album that fell into a technological black hole when I revamped my kitchen boombox sidebar blog sometime back. The amazing Buddy Guy Live: The Real Deal lives up to its name and then some.

Buddy Guy Live: The Real Deal

Buddy Guy takes a certain amount of heat for sometimes playing in the rock ‘n roll end of the blues pool. And I’ve read reviews of him pandering to the crowd with easy, crowd-pleasing pap like Mustang Sally. But when he gets it right, he nails it.

On this 1996 release recorded on his home turf—his club here in Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Legends—he gets it right. The back-up band is G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band [complete with the horn section], and they are in turn backed up by blues piano legend Johnnie Johnson. Not bad company.

Probably my favorite way to listen to live music is in a bar. This hour-long live album delivers the sound of that venue, right down to appreciative crowd noise and energy and even the buzzing of a guitar amp on the opening track until the guy at the sound board gets it sorted out. Put a drink in your hand and some smoke in the air [well, no more—Illinois has gone smoke-free, I’m happy to say] and you’re there. A great mix of songs and tempos and solid musicianship, wall to wall. And yeah, Buddy Guy Live: The Real Deal owes more than a little to rock [as does much of Chicago blues], but there’s still plenty of Mississippi juke joint in Buddy’s guitar.

If you want to catch Buddy live in this kind of setting, your best chance is the dead of winter. This just kills me. He owns Legends—he can play there anytime he chooses. And when he chooses is the entire month of January, probably the least hospitable time to be in Chicago. But book your tickets early—pretty much the entire month sells out quickly, especially the weekend dates.

Of course, when he’s not on the road other times of the year, you may find him sitting at the bar in Legends, taking in whatever local or touring blues act is playing that night. And while he won’t get up and play with other bands playing his club, he’s happy to talk with you if you walk over and say hi.