BUDDY GUY: RHYTHM & BLUES (2013)
CD I: 1) Best In Town; 2) Justifyin'; 3) I Go By Feel; 4) Messin' With The Kid; 5) What's Up With That Woman; 6) One Day Away; 7) Well I Done Got Over It; 8) What You Gonna Do About Me; 9) The Devil's Daughter; 10) Whiskey Ghost; 11) Rhythm Inner Groove.
CD II: 1) Meet Me In Chicago; 2) Too Damn Bad; 3) Evil Twin; 4) I Could Die Happy; 5) Never Gonna Change; 6) All That Makes Me Happy Is The Blues; 7) My Mama Loved Me; 8) Blues Don't Care; 9) I Came Up Hard; 10) Poison Ivy.
Look, we all love Buddy Guy. He is one of the coolest blues players around — the coolest blues player still left alive from his generation, probably, and the world will never be the same when he's gone. But that doesn't mean that we just have to keep spending our time on every new album of his, and certainly not on a double album, unless that double album has anything specifically interesting to say. And the fact that this album is called Rhythm & Blues, and the first disc is supposed to be «rhythm» and the second is supposed to be «blues» is not a specifically interesting fact on its own. Not to mention that it's a fickle distinction anyway.
The worst news here is that the record, once again, is just too damn slick. On Living Proof, Guy at least sounded excited and eager to, well, prove that he can still outplay any new sucker in town. Here, that excitement seems largely dissipated, and the songs, most of them not-too-original originals co-written by Buddy with a pack of songwriting partners (Tom Hambridge, Richard Fleming, and others), are melodically boring and played by-the-book. You know something's not quite right when the record greets you with the opening riff and it's... uh... Miley Cyrus' ʻParty In The USAʼ. Well, okay, that one's probably a funny coincidence, but fact is, everything here is remade, sterile, safe, and dull.
It certainly does not help matters much that the new bunch of guest stars, in place of Derek Trucks or Santana, now includes bland singer-songwriters like Beth Hart, handsome sentimentalists like Keith Urban, and evil scourges of humanity like Kid Rock, let alone three grizzled members of Aerosmith who really have no business on a Buddy Guy album. The only pleasant collaboration here is with rising blues star Gary Clark Jr., but his abilities seem wasted on an upbeat track like ʻBlues Don't Careʼ where he just gets a brief rip-it-up solo of speedy trills, choking on themselves (if you know nothing about him, he's usually much better on his own albums). I think these guests are quite indicative, really — and, with disgusting predictability, Kid Rock joins Buddy on nothing else than ʻMessin' With The Kidʼ. Dear Mr. American Bad Ass, could you please not pollute the production of your elders with your presence any more?
Not that the elimination of bad guest appearances would have saved the album anyway. Buddy plays okay throughout, but we know that he is capable of more than «okay», even at this old age, and the only reason why he is not rising to the occasion is that he is not trying to — the emphasis here is on crafting a slick, commercial piece of product. Every once in a while, there's a flash of raw greatness (ʻWhat's Up With That Womanʼ, on which he is backed by the Muscle Shoal Horns, is probably a good example), but for an album that runs well over eighty minutes, these flashes come all too rarely.
I understand that a thumbs down rating here may seem unnecessarily harsh, but see, at this time in history there is simply no need for Mr. Guy to come out with albums like this — I don't think he needs the money that bad, and if he wants to transmit his expertise to a younger generation of players, he can just do it in his basement and leave us out of it. (Not to mention that the only thing that needs to be transmitted to somebody like Kid Rock is a free one-way ticket to Saint Helena island). Basically, there's nothing good on this record that you haven't already heard a couple dozen times (usually better), and the bad stuff on this record is not something you ever need to hear, unless you really have the hots for a sexy hunk like Keith Urban.