On the cusp
of turning 80, finally he admitted that he came into the world with a guitar –a
Fender in his case- for an umbilical cord and that his first cries as a baby
were in fact a blues ditty. Even his own website has trouble listing the
immense discography Guy built up over the course of a career so long that he
can boast of being one of Jimi Hendrix's mentors and of having shared a stage
with him. It makes sense then to recall the obvious with the title to both a
song and his new album (apparently studio release number 28 as a solo artist).
That is especially true if someone receives the special Lifetime Achievement
Award Grammy –never a good omen-, which Guy surely placed in the display case alongside
the seven Grammy trophies he has won previously.
Age, of course, still hasn't made a mark on the leading luminary of Chicago blues still alive. Not in his fingers or his voice, not in the intensity with which he pays tribute to his colleague B.B. King, whose death still remains too fresh in the memory. None other than Van Morrison accompanies him on one of the climactic moments of the album.
Fittingly in an album full of personal references, Guy reserves a spot for Muddy Waters, who was something more than just a musical influence at the start of his career. Come back Muddy is the pinnacle, a closing lament played on piano and acoustic guitar that reeks of nightclubs and cheap alcohol. Pure blues.
Besides the Irish singer, the bearded guitarist from ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons, is another special guest whose contribution adds greatly to the album from the opening chord of Wear you out. That is hardly a surprise. Buddy Guy has always been surrounded by a group of rocker admirers, starting with Eric Clapton, and the Texas axeslinger is almost one of the family, not to mention the principal supporter of the Delta Blues Museum.
The list of friends is completed by the marvellous British vocalist Joss Stone, barely 30 years old and already a model soul singer, and Kim Wilson, the frontman for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, on hand to ensure the sound of harmonica is not missing from the album.
That is as essential an instrument as the Stratocaster, because Born to Play Guitar has all the necessary ingredients for understanding the Chicago blues just as Buddy himself learned it from the masters 50 years ago. And now it's his turn to pass along the legacy.