Buddy Guy – Southern Blues (1957-63)

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NICK DERISO: Guitarist Buddy Guy, a Baton Rouge-area native, has a presence hardly in need of defining.

From bar-walking solos (thanks to that old 150-foot amp chord), to his clean, percussive style on a polka-dot guitar, Guy has since the 1960s cut a wide swath, image-wise.

Yet “Southern Blues” illuminates the proto-Guy in the same way that the Muddy Waters field recordings did decades ago. Featuring the earliest Chicago sides by Guy (and issued on Paula Records), it’s an LP of uncommon worth — and not just to bone-deep blues fans.

Almost all of the tracks were produced by Chess great Willie Dixon, and a few feature Ike Turner (at least once, believe it or not, on first guitar) while he was still in his prime. Still others find Guy backing vocalist Jessie Fortune, including “Too Many Cooks,” which was later recorded by Robert Cray.

While Guy’s solos here sometimes lack the internal logic and brilliant finesse of those done just five years later, his is certainly a fizzy presence. And you get a sense of where he came from in these raw and rare recordings.

He had a coltish desire, even then, to perform well. Gladly, he almost always does.

The over-all pitch is as gritty as you might imagine from early archival sides. There’s even a bit of Texas-style rhythm and sway.

A pleasant marriage between the Southern feel that was then familiar to Guy and the new restless Chicago vibe that his elders were teaching him.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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