Buddy Guy – Rhythm and Blues (2013)

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For all of the big-name guests here, Rhythm and Blues still crackles with the most energy when Buddy Guy stands alone at the mic. Luckily, his forthcoming RCA project is a double album — so there’s plenty of both.

The spry 76-year-old guitar-slinger’s interactions with others are dotted across the project, which is split into a disc titled Rhythm and another titled Blues. That includes “Messin’ with the Kid” alongside Kid Rock and “One Day Away” featuring Keith Urban on the initial disc, and “Evil Twin” with a trio of members of Aerosmith and “Blues Don’t Care” featuring Gary Clark Jr. on the second.

Luckily, however, Rhythm and Blues doesn’t let those moments become a distraction.

Guy remains the star of his own show, beginning with the broiling braggadocio of “Best in Town” from Rhythm, which finds Guy — along with Grammy-winning producer and drummer Tom Hambridge, who also worked on 2010’s triumphal Living Proof — setting his ’89 Fender custom Strat aflame. He unleashes a torrent of angry notes on “Justifyin,'” then thrillingly tangles with the Muscle Shoals Horns throughout “What’s Up With That Woman.”

On the simmering and far more dangerous Blues, Guy howls with a visceral anger on “Too Damn Bad” — an instantly timeless track from Hambridge — and then lets his guard down (but only just a bit) for the autobiographical “I Came Up Hard.” Along the way, Guy also pulls out the ’54 Fender Strat for a serrated run through the tough-talking “Never Gonna Change.”

No matter the star power found elsewhere, this will always be the heart of the album.

Among the duets, the one that comes closest to matching the raw nerve of Guy’s solo spotlights is “What You’re Gonna Do To Me,” featuring Beth Hart. Volcanic and darkly sensual, Hart is one of the few vocalists out there who might credibly stand toe-to-toe with Guy — and, for a moment at least, she does.

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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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