The absolutely splendid Buddy Guy box set Can't Quit the Blues is worth (re)visiting on a number of fronts, the most immediate of which is that this icon of the blues has once again elevated his contemporary profile opening for Jeff Beck on tour during the summer of 2016 . But El Becko is only one of Guy's most devout admirers: Keith Richards and Gary Clark, Jr. span generations to offer props to him for fashioning the course of their respective careers, while a testimonial from Eric Clapton himself introduces Anthony DeCurtis' fine essay in the handsome forty-eight page booklet in this package that, over the course of three CD's and a DVD enclosed in a hardcover, effectively chronicles Buddy Guy's career in deserving detail.
In terms of the subject's overall prestige as an artist, it's more than a little telling that My Time After Awhile, the video component of Can't Quit the Blues, was produced by Janie Hendrix and John McDermott, administrators for the archive of the former's late brother Jimi Hendrix. The latter's stage histrionics, including playing with his teeth and with the axe behind the back, were theatrical ploys Guy admits he borrowed from Lightning Slim and has used on and off during the course of his career: they are totally in keeping with his largely frenetic style of singing and playing as captured here in recordings that go back thirty odd years. But Buddy is a unique figure for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that his own compositions, like "Stone Crazy" and "Ten Years Ago" populate the credits next to hallowed names of the genre including Muddy Waters ("She's Nineteen Years Old") and Willie Dixon ("Let Me Love You Baby").
Almost matching the near ninety-minute playing time of the aforementioned documentary itself, the eleven concert pieces on the DVD again span three decades of Buddy Guy's career. Yet these live performances are hardly mere adjunct to that corollary content, but rather a significant complement to it and, in face, stand on their own as vivid depictions of the musician's versatile gifts. With many of these excerpts taken from appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival ( two acoustic numbers, "What I'd Say" and "Louise McGhee," are from an appearance in Seattle in 2004), these segments broaden the portrait of Guy as the complete bluesman, illustrating much of what the man himself recounts during the interview segments of the film proper. His good humored story-telling there is interspersed with vintage photos and footage of the various phases of his life and career that in sum paint a most vivid picture, not just of his life, but the times in which he grew up.
Meanwhile, the studio and live recordings, presented chronologically through the three audio discs in the box set, grow in both presence and clarity. What doesn't change appreciably, apart from Guy's somewhat overlooked loyalty to acoustic blues, is the consistency of style here: he rarely moves too far from straightforward blues, altering the tempo more than anything, thus driving home the consistency of his approach by illustrating how a variety of material will accommodate his loyalty to the form. For instance, in its tongue-in-cheek tenor, Mose Allison's "Your Mind is On Vacation" is a far cry the tortured likes of "Five Long Years." And Buddy is hardly averse to contemporary sources of song either: John Hiatt's "Feels Like Rain" appears here in a moving rendition on which Bonnie Raitt and her band supply accompaniment.
Meanwhile, John Mayer, late of Dead & Co., demonstrates his affinity for blues guitar during "I'd Rather Be Blind Crippled And Crazy" (a staple in the repertoire of the now-defunct Derek Trucks Band). It's a direct reflection of how Buddy Guy's career continues at a vigorous pace, accelerated by his 2005 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the homage to him at the Kennedy Center Salute in 2012. Fortuitous as it is for blues aficionados and music-lovers in general, the detailed timeline included in Can't Quit The Blues, as impressive as it is as a summary of his career up to the release date of the box, is eventually going to require some extensive updates.
Track Listing: CD 1: The Way You Been Treating Me; Sit And Cry (The Blues); This Is The End;
Untitled Instrumental; First Time I Met The Blues; Ten Years Ago; Let Me Love
You Baby; Stone Crazy; When My Left Eye Jumps; Hoodoo Man Blues; In The
Wee Hours; I Can't Quit The Blues; One Room Country Shack; T-Bone Shuffle;
When You See The Tears From My Eyes; I Smell A Rat; She Suits Me To A T; DJ
Play My Blues. CD 2: Damn Right, I've Got The Blues; Mustang Sally; Five Long
Years; Mary Ann; She's Nineteen Years Old; Miss Ida B; Feels Like Rain; 7-11; I
Smell Trouble; Someone Else Is Steppin' In (Slippin' Out, Slippin' In); My Time
After Awhile; Your Mind Is On Vacation; Midnight Train; Totally Out Of Control.
CD 3: Nobody Understands Me But My Guitar; Baby Please Don't Leave Me; Done
Got Old; Honey Bee; Tramp; Crawlin' Kingsnake; Moanin' And Groanin'; Bad Life
Blues; I Can't Be Satisfied; First Time I Met The Blues; I'd Rather Be Blind,
Crippled & Crazy; Somebody's Sleeping In My Bed; I Miss You; Cut You Loose;
The Price You Gotta Pay. Disc 4 (DVD): Features exclusive 90 minute career-
spanning documentary with rare and previously unseen performance footage.
plus eleven never-before-seen live performances spanning thirty years of Buddy's
career 1974 - 2004
Ten Years Ago; One Room Country Shack; Messin' With The Kid; Everyday I
Have The Blues; Woman Do You Think I'm Foolish;
Mary Had A Little Lamb; Damn Right, I've Got The Blues; Drowning On Dry Land;
Mustang Sally; What'd I Say; Louise McGhee.
Personnel: Buddy Guy: vocals, guitar. Various lineups including: Junior Wells: harmonica,
vocals; Jimmy Powers: harmonica; Bonnie Raitt: slide guitar, vocals; Johnny
Lang: guitar, vocals; Phil Guy, Doug Williams, Lefty Bates, Jimbo Mathus, Jack
Holder, John Porter, Neil Hubbard, Wayne Bennett, G.E. Smith, Danny
Kortchmar, Terry Taylor, Johnny Lee Schell, Scott Holt, David Grissom, Otis
Rush, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Keb' Mo', B.B. King, Eric Clapton, John Mayer:
guitar; Ivan Neville: organ, keyboards; Lafayette Leake: piano, organ; Reese
Wynans: piano, organ, keyboards; Bernie Worrell: keyboards; Leon Pendarvis:
organ; Mick Weaver: piano, organ; Pinetop Perkins, Little Brother Montgomery,
Otis Spann, Bill Payne, Ian McLagan, Johnnie Johnson, Dr. John: piano; Willie
Weeks, Paul Ossola, Mike Morrison, David M. Smith, Tommy Shannon, Bill
Wyman, Jack Meyers, Leroy Stewart, J.W. Williams, Davey Faragher, Greg Rzab,
Larry Taylor, Tony Garnier, Willie Dixon: bass; Clifton James, Fred Below, Dallas
Taylor, Jim Keltner, Chris Layton, Ray Allison, Roosevelt Shaw, Phil Thomas, Billy
Warren, Odie Payne, Shawn Pelton, Richie Hayward, Steve Jordan, Spam:
drums; Tony Braunagle, David Z: percussion; Aaron Corthen, Bobby Fields,
Malcolm Duncan: saxophone; George Young: alto saxophone; Lenny Pickett, A.C.
Reed, Lannie McMillan, Joe Sublett, Abe Locke, Bob Neely, Jarrett Gibson,
Andrew Love: tenor saxophone; Donald Hankins: tenor saxophone, baritone
saxophone; McKinley Easton, Lew Del Gatto: baritone saxophone; Jim Horn:
baritone saxophone, flute; Marty Grebb: baritone saxophone, piano; Sonny
Turner, Sid Gauld, Darrell Leonard, Ron Tooley, Murray Watson, Ben Cauley:
trumpet; Neil Sidwell, Dennis Wilson, Jack Hale: trombone; Shemekia Copeland:
vocals; Renée Geyer: background vocals; The Perrys: handclaps; others.