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Falling for the Guy

Rock’n’roll and blues hall of famer Buddy Guy returns with his latest album Skin Deep, says Indrajit Hazra.

art and culture Updated: Aug 21, 2008 15:10 IST
Indrajit Hazra

From the very first bars of the drunken wah-wahs in the opening number, you know that you’ve cut through the chase and come to the House of Buddy Guy. Skin Deep is a tremello-ndous album that shows flash’n’style’n’fretwork all fitting together hand in glove. Best Damn Fool is an abject lesson of how our Chicago blues man from Louisana has sonically taught chaps like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards how to twang a thing or two or three.

In Too Many Tears, Guy and his guitar are joined with blues-soul singer Tedeschi in a flotilla song that swims down gently. The straight blues in its most lamenting form raises its leg in Lyin’ Like A Dog. Guy makes his trademark flutters as the piano tries to provide some hope even as he sings about double-crossing love using a canine metaphor. Be prepared for the manic-depressive finger-pluckings that erupt like fast-forwarded lava.

The pace picks up on the rock’n’roll groove with the honky tonky piano egging on Buddy in Show Me The Money. The Telecaster rides through the gospel-skirting backing vocals as Buddy crab crawls through the three minute-no nonsense terrain. Already, I’m rather gobsmacked at the various sounds that seem to be jumping out of this album. Clearly, this is Buddy still walking the highwire. (Oh did I get the jitters when I heard that 1993 lemon Feels Like Rain.)

In Everytime I Sing the Blues. Buddy goes autobiographical, lifting his voice and making his guitar sing along with that of Clapton’s who joins him. The wires of the two folks get wonderfully crossed as Clapton lingers and repeats a note, until Buddy joins at a meeting point and runs his heavier, grizzlier notes all over. This is a wonderful ‘accident’ to behold that tapers off to a lingering keyboard note end.

We get the liquor out in Out In The Woods as Robert Randolph plays his melting steel guitar. A Gibson in hand and microphone in front of him, Buddy and Robert take us knee-deep in some Mississippi swampland.

There’s the cotton funk riff in Hammer and a Nail that could give Jack White a few ideas. But it’s Randolph returns, this time with a pedal steel, in That’s My Home. The incredible variations that Buddy Guy spins out of the Blues tempo is brought home in this foot-stomper. The title track is a medidative song featuring Southern blues guitar from Derek Trucks and a pressing keyboard sound.

Cat’s Cradle Blues comes hopping out in Who’s Gonna Fill Those Shoes. Be ready to thump along even as Buddy goes stratospheric with his BG Strat this time. Smell the Funk is a life-affirming lead into the metronomic joys of I Found Happiness, where Clapton joins the Guy once more.

This is an exuberant affirmation of the blues. But for me what’s got me stumped is: how can one man contain so many noises, so many sounds, all played and sung with the same kind of feeling? Answer me that guys.