Buddy Guy is a finger-licking wonder on the forthcoming 2-CD Chicago Blues: A Living History; The (R)evolution Continues, an old-blues-meets-new-blues set scheduled for a release on June 7 by Megaforce/RED.
The followup to a similar Grammy-nominated homage from 2009, this 22-track compilation includes guest appearances by the likes of James “Superharp” Cotton, formerly of the Muddy Waters band; Billy Branch, John Primer, Magic Slim, Billy Boy Arnold and Ronnie Baker Brooks, among others.
They’re fronting a talented group called the Living History Band, featuring former Miles Davis bassist Felton Crews, not to mention a couple of rising second-generation stars in drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith (son of Waters sideman Willie “Big Eyes” Smith) and guitarist Lurrie Bell (son of Carey Bell, who played harp with Earl Hooker, Willie Dixon and others).
You’d think it would be difficult to stand out. Not for Buddy Guy, still a sizzling, salacious force of nature — and, as always, a deft stealer of shows.
He starts by cuffing around Eurreal Montgomery’s lyric, cooing and then braying with a voice that’s still bursting with portent and sensual danger — more than 40 years after his album of the same name was released on Python. Then Guy begins sawing away on the guitar, once again taking it to places unheard of in blues music. It’s the pauses that delight, though. The way that Guy will stop here to take a long, lingering moment to chart his next riff. When he finally leaps back in, there is a rushing exhalation, a sense of dizzying release. It only adds to the tangy drama.
Elsewhere, Chicago Blues: A Living History; The (R)evolution Continues deftly bridges the generations — featuring Billy Boy Arnold’s tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson II on the 1941 boogie-woogie track “She Don’t Love Me That Way,” former Willie Dixon sideman John Primer’s smart reworking of Chuck Berry’s 1958 gem “Reelin and a Rockin,’” a series of terrific updates from the Waters catalog, and James Cotton and Billy Branch tearing through the classic early 1950s side “Rocket 88,” which originally featured Ike Turner and his Rhythm Kings. Produced by Raisin’ Music’s Larry Skoller, the album includes a 32-page booklet featuring a blues timeline from Rice Miller’s birth through Otis Rush’s first Grammy, liner notes and photography by Paul Natkin and Brad Meese.
But be ready with the fire extinguisher once you get around to Disc 2, Track 1.