George "Buddy" Guy is many things to many people. To blues fans with a sense of
blues history, Buddy Guy helped to shape Chicago's "West Side Sound" along with Otis Rush and Magic Sam in the late 1950's and early 1960's. He was also one of Chess Records early stars and has served as a mainstay for Silvertone Records in the 1990's and the new millennium where he has received numerous gold records and Grammy Awards. To others, Guy is the great entertainer, displaying endless energy and capturing audiences with his fiery guitar and charismatic stage presence. He has also used his shows as a platform to preach the development of the blues and to
demonstrate a variety of blues styles for neophyte fans who have heard of Buddy Guy
and B.B. King, but not all of the other performers in blues and rock music who have
gotten the blues to where it is today.
As the king of electric guitar blues and the Chicago sound, the release of Sweet Tea
on Silvertone Records marks a dramatic change for Buddy Guy as he seeks to meld his electric Chicago blues with the "new" electric blues of the Mississippi Hill Country. Of the nine songs recorded for Sweet Tea, four are written by the late Junior Kimbrough one each by T-Model Ford, Cedell Davis and Robert Cage; and one co-written by Jimmy McCracklin and the late Lowell Fulson. Only the final song, "It's A Jungle Out There," is actually penned by Guy. The result of this mix is something of a fusion between the two sounds, with the stripped down and repetitive rhythmic patterns of the hill country, mixed with lighting strike lead guitar from urban Chicago.
The recording opens with Junior Kimbrough's "Done Got Old," performed on an
acoustic guitar and featuring a strained, older sounding Buddy Guy on vocals, much
like the sounds you might hear on any number of recordings from hill country
performers like R. L. Burnside or Junior Kimbrough. This is followed by another
Kimbrough tune, "Baby Please Don't Leave Me," filled with the standard hill country
lyrical patterns, combined with some overpowering bass and reverb-drenched,
powerfully distorted guitar. Guy's lead break on this song and several others stand
out noticeably because of the contrast in style. This doesn't take away from the
original sound at all, but instead adds another dimension. On the Cedell Davis
number, "I Gotta Try You Girl," Guy and the band play on for over twelve minutes on
a song that probably could have been played even longer if the band had chosen to do so. This certainly lends credence to the belief that many hill country songs could be played all night long.
The difference in the writing style of the composers is noticeable when you compare
the sound of the McCracklin/Fulson penned "Tramp" and Buddy's own, "It's A Jungle
Out There." "Tramp" is more complicated and does not contain the repetitive, one
chord sound of the hill country songs. However, the heavy reverb sound of Guy's
guitar is still present. "It's A Jungle Out There" is really more like what you would
hear on some of Guy's more recent recordings in both sound and instrumentation.
As a fan of both styles of the blues, Sweet Tea was really a marriage made in heaven
for me. The styles blend together surprisingly well, offering more evidence of the
electric Chicago sounds origins in the Deep South and that the ties between the styles remains incredibly strong. This is an excellent recording and one that adds a distinct new dimension to Buddy Guy as an interpreter of other blues styles. To find out more about Buddy Guy, visit his website at www.buddyguys.com or www.buddyguy.net. Pick up a copy of Sweet Tea; you will find it quite tasty.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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