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Monday, February 15, 2016

Buddy Guy: Living Proof


1) 74 Years Young; 2) Thank Me Someday; 3) On The Road; 4) Stay Around A Little Longer; 5) Key Don't Fit; 6) Living Proof; 7) Where The Blues Begins; 8) Too Soon; 9) Everybody's Got To Go; 10) Let The Door Knob Hit Ya; 11) Guess What; 12) Skanky.

You can pretty much see from these titles — ʻ74 Years Youngʼ, ʻStay Around A Little Longerʼ, ʻEverybody's Got To Goʼ — that there is essentially one thing hanging heavy on Buddy Guy's mind these days, and it don't have much to do with his little red rooster, either (although a couple of the tunes here still raise that subject on an obligatory basis). Indeed, he has reached that crucial point where every new album, no matter how generic or predictable, is welcome as long as it serves as «living proof»: the man is still alive in body and in spirit. No other reasons are neces­sary: it is now a game of survival, of seeing just how long and how bright that old spirit, dating all the way back to what is like the Stone Age from a 2010 perspective, can still burn.

And yes, nothing particularly interesting can be said about these songs except for a general con­firmation — the man still got it. ʻ74 Years Youngʼ brings home the message once it's time for the guitar solo: as he takes a break from listing his achievements and memories ("drank wine with kings and the Rolling Stones", etc.), the man unleashes such a violent barrage of rapid-fire blues licks, punching the shit out of that poor guitar, that you almost get the urge to scream "enough already! we get the message, Mr. Guy, have pity on your 74-year young hands!"

But that "74 years young, gonna keep on having fun" bit is still braggadoccio, because later on we get either sentimental about it (ʻStay Around A Little Longerʼ is a duet with B. B. King where the two of them basically ask this of one another, confessing mutual admiration) or religious about it (ʻEverybody's Gotta Goʼ dips into gospel, as Buddy comes to personal terms with the Lord); the man understands everything about the power of hyperbole, and easily swaps songs that deny the possibility of a near end with songs that accept and make their peace with that possibility. And all three of these numbers are convincing and touching, each in its own way, even if their manipu­lative devices are in plain view — yet how could one not be moved at the sight of a friendly, emotional duet between two age-old patriarchs of the blues?

Next to that, the duet with Santana (ʻWhere The Blues Beginsʼ) can only sound like you'd ima­gine a duet with Santana should sound — pompous, pathetic, predictable, still theoretically cool like any duet between two guitar giants should be, but way too gloomy and serious. Apparently, whenever Santana crosses your threshold, you think you have to engage him in something Spiri­tual with a capital S, or else he'll think you unworthy or something; but Spiritual with a capital S can only be Successful with a capital S when it's Subtle with a capital S, and Buddy Guy has never been the master of subtle (unlike B. B. King, by the way, who could squeeze your soul out with his microtones). So they just blast away, and the pomp soon becomes overbearing.

The rest of the tracks are fun, but, as usual, rather non-descript, and too often fall upon the exact same groove (ʻSkankyʼ is essentially an instrumental re-run of the title track, and both just milk the ʻPride And Joyʼ groove until it runs completely dry). So, overall, you have to get in a some­what respectful or reverential mood to be able to say that Living Proof is better than average — although, to be fair, Buddy himself tries to avoid getting too serious about his age. He sure as hell ain't fearing no reaper — good for him.

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