Blues star Buddy Guy reunites with producer, songwriter and drummer Tom Hambridge for their sixth album together. The title—The Blues Is Alive and Well—doesn’t lie. Guy, the Pointe Coupee Parish native who boarded a train in Baton Rouge for Chicago in 1957, delivers an album that shows him at peak blues power. His strong, supple voice, frenzied guitar and stage-stalking presence don’t miss. Celebrity guests Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Jeff Beck, all friends and fans of Guy’s, plus the gospel group the McCrary Sisters, complement the blues master.
As usual, the Nashville-based Hambridge co-wrote most of the songs. The producer’s impressive co-writers include Jamey Johnson, Gary Nicholson, Mac Davis and Richard Fleming. The song’s lyrics and music fit Guy closely enough to be autobiographical. As Guy says of Hambridge, “He’s the type of guy who feels what I’m gonna do.”
The Blues Is Alive and Well begins with the intimate plea “A Few Good Years.” The lyrics sound as if they come straight from the 81-year-old Guy’s heart. “I’ve been mighty lucky,” he confides. “I’ve traveled everywhere. Made a ton of money. … A few good years is all I need right now. Please, please Lord, send a few good years on down.”
Autobiography returns in “Somebody Up There.” The life stories of many blues men are tales of woe and early demise, but Guy prevailed, living well and long enough to sing about it. Accompanied by the relaxed swing in “End of the Line,” he notes his good fortune again and celebrates it with a blistering guitar solo. “Well, I’m way past 71, but I still can get this damn job done,” he sings.
The Blues Is Alive and Well gains added appeal from guest appearances by Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and electric guitar great Jeff Beck. Jagger adds complimentary harmonica riffing to “You Did the Crime.” Beck and Richards add guitar licks to “Cognac,” a warm and shuffling ode to French brandy. “Come on in here, Beck,” Guy says. “Stretch your neck.”
Pity any blues artist who gets a Grammy nomination alongside Guy. The Blues Is Alive and Well, a testament to his continued prowess, surely will be a contender.