Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Well, today on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on SiriusXM OutQ, I listed my top 10 albums of the year.  Of course it took me all weekend plus Monday to decide what LPs I settled on. And there were a lot of great albums that almost made it, so it's a big tie for #11.  One of those albums is Buddy Guy's latest, Living Proof.

It's the best "blues" album of the year, but I don't want to categorize it like that. There aren't many other blues artists anyway, Buddy is one of the last true bluesmen standing, hardly anyone holds a candle to the man. And Buddy could coast now if he wanted to: he has nothing left to prove. He is universally regarded as a legend, and a few years ago, he finally got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (many years too late, but better late than never). Everyone knows that his style was a huge influence (not just an influence, but a HUGE influence) on Clapton, Hendrix, Beck, Page, Townshend, and through them, legions of other guitar players. The odds of him making a landmark album at this point is against the odds, but guess what, this is a pretty awesome album.  It's nearly as good as 2001's Dirt Floor, which is my favorite thing by him since maybe the Chess era.

He starts off totally badass with "74 Years Young."  It begins as a country blues number, and then hits the gas and takes it to Chicago, where Buddy rips your head off with some of his hottest playing EVER. "Got a few scars, from all the battles I won, I'm 74 years young...Tonight I feel like I'm 21, I'm 74 years young!" Dude is still heavy as hell, he means it when he sings. It's the truth.

I don't want to beat up on wimpy bands too much, but after listening to this, it's hard to listen to, like, Vampire Weekend.

The album isn't just for blues people or guitar players, at least not in my opinion.  You don't have to have tons of blues records to dig this. It's a great album. I'm glad that it isn't (yet another) all-star collab album, but there are two guests on the album. Carlos Santana - who loves Buddy - plays on "Where The Blues Begin," which is sort of what you would expect.  A hot blues workout with Santana's very identifiable sound. It's my favorite thing Carlos has done this year too.

But my favorite part of the album may be Buddy's duet with B.B. King, "Stay Around A Little Longer."   I don't think anyone would argue that B.B. is the biggest living blues legend.  That's sort of by design: in one of the Scorsese-produced blues docs from a few years back, old footage of B.B. shows him saying that he wants to be the biggest blues artist ever, and he actually made it happen. Anyway, I'd say B.B. is the biggest, Buddy is the second biggest. They've worked together often, and they've known each other for decades, and "Stay Around A Little Longer" sees them reflecting back on the years and being thankful for what they've got. It's one of my favorite songs of the year. I love when Buddy sings, "There's more songs to be sung.  We've come a long way, but we're a long way from being done!"

I hope that's true.  But if these giants decide to retire, this is a fine curtain call. B.B. is still doing it, and judging by this album, Buddy (who is younger than B.B.) in fact does have a lot of songs left in him. After all, he feels like he's 21.

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