BY XAVIER JOHNSON
Hailing from Lettsworth, Louisiana, blues legend Buddy Guy is rolling on with a new album featuring a classic blues sound played by one of the genre’s most iconic elder statesmen.
The 86-year-old guitarist and singer has done just about everything there is to do in music from releasing over a dozen studio albums to accumulating a host of awards for his lengthy and extensive music career.
The Blues Don’t Lie is an hour-long record full of blues that spans a variety of moods. Despite his age, Guy’s spirit is as lively as ever with his expressive voice and guitar work.
Buddy Guy used his status and budget to nail the sound of the album. The record is cleanly produced. Each instrument has its place without ever becoming overbearing. For a guitar-focused record, the rhythm section stands out with tight playing and slick grooves elevating the overall sound.
The blues has always been simple. It’s a common man’s art form that sheds excess and splendor for realistic depictions of the human experience. It’s a personal form of music that changes based on the artist even if they’re playing standards.
There’s a clear difference between the blues of Buddy Guy and other contemporaries like B.B King and Muddy Waters. Their life experiences influenced their sounds and brought different interpretations of the blues.
Guy stands out for his stunning guitar work. In a genre that centers around songwriters that can crush it on guitar, he’s made his mark as one of the best in the game. His knack for nailing guitar solos and laying down fresh riffs have made him the legend he is today.
All of these qualities are present on The Blues Don’t Lie. The title is a dead giveaway of the type of energy Guy comes with on the album. He’s an authority that has the bonafides to say that the blues, in fact, don’t lie. The first track is an immediate attention grabber. “I Let My Guitar Do The Talking” is a bombastic jam that would light up any rock club with its shining horn section and blaring organ. Guy’s voice is powerful and his solo is a wild, blistering showcase of his skillset.
This track is immediately followed by the toned-down “Blues Don’t Lie.” This biographical track is a brisk ride as Guy’s soulful voice guides the track along at a steady pace. Within the first two songs of the album, his versatility as a blues artist is clearly on full display.
The Blues Don’t Lie is a cleanly produced record, but it does maintain some of the live grittiness that is necessary in the blues. While some songs, like the opener, are pristine hits; other songs like “Sweet Thing” have a live feel where the listener can feel the air in the room.
The closer “King Bee” is another strong track. It’s an acoustic song that presents Guy as he is. With just his guitar, he lays down a standard blues riff and his voice is rough and powerful. His low notes reverberate through the empty space left by the sparse guitar. It’s a stellar track that is in stark contrast to the relative noisy album that precedes it.
A handful of guests appear on The Blues Don’t Lie. His collaboration with songwriter Jason Isbell is incredible. “Gunsmoke Blues” is a poignant statement on gun violence in America. Isbell and Guy meld effortlessly to create a haunting song that accentuates the great qualities of both artists.
88-year-old Bobby Rush also shows up on the record to lend his talents to “What’s Wrong With That,” a fun jam that has two legends in the game trading guitar licks and vocal passages. Other artists appearing on the album also include Elvis Costello, James Taylor and Mavis Staples.
The Blues Don’t Lie is a celebration of blues music that doesn’t veer into uncharted territory. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. He helped invent the wheel, after all.