Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Buddy Guy & Junior Wells [extended]

  • Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play the Blues [Atco, 1972] A-
  • Stone Crazy! [Alligator, 1981] B+
  • Drinkin' TNT and Smokin' Dynamite [Blind Pig, 1982] B+
  • Alone and Acoustic [Alligator, 1991] *
  • Damn Right I've Got the Blues [Silvertone, 1991] Neither
  • My Time After Awhile [Vanguard, 1992] Neither
  • Feels Like Rain [Silvertone, 1993] Choice Cuts
  • Slippin' In [Silvertone, 1994] *
  • Heavy Love [Silvertone, 1998] ***
  • Last Time Around: Live at Legends [Silvertone, 1998] A-
  • Sweet Tea [Silvertone, 2001] A-
  • Blues Singer [Silvertone, 2003] *
  • Bring 'Em In [Silvertone, 2005] ***
  • Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues [Rhino Handmade, 2005]
  • Live at Theresa's 1975 [Delmark, 2006] ***
  • Born to Play Guitar [Silvertone, 2015] **

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play the Blues [Atco, 1972]
Most attempts to broaden the blues audience fail in every way, as Wells's r&b albums for Blue Rock attest, but this one's at least a musical triumph, as relaxed and intense and authentic as any of Wells's work for Vanguard or Delmark. The sales gimmicks are tastefully hyped-up production and such participants as Eric Clapton (backup and bottleneck), Dr. John, and the J. Geils Band (on two change-of-pace Guy vocals, including "This Old Fool," which is going to be the single and ought to be). Wells has softened his spitting style with a few soul mannerisms and his harmonica has lost none of its verve; Guy's flash and facility are ideal in this context. Hurray. A-

Buddy Guy: Stone Crazy! [Alligator, 1981]
With or without Junior Wells, Guy hasn't put so much guitar on an album since A Man and the Blues in 1967, and if anything this is wilder and more jagged. Which is great if you like your blues straight, without Otis Spann stitching a groove. I prefer mine on the rock. B+

Drinkin' TNT and Smokin' Dynamite [Blind Pig, 1982]
I assume this 1974 live-at-Montreux was finally released because it features Bill Wyman, who does seem to know the parts, but saints be praised, he's not the star. Saints be criticized, neither is Wells, who was once a sharper, tighter singer. He's plenty soulful, though, especially on harp, and Guy picks up the slack--listen to him think on "Ten Years Ago." B+

Alone and Acoustic [Alligator, 1991]
au contraire--together and acoustic ("High Heel Sneakers," "Give Me My Coat and Shoes") *

Buddy Guy: Damn Right I've Got the Blues [Silvertone, 1991] Neither

Buddy Guy: My Time After Awhile [Vanguard, 1992] Neither

Buddy Guy: Feels Like Rain [Silvertone, 1993]
"Country Boy" Choice Cuts

Buddy Guy: Slippin' In [Silvertone, 1994]
more voice, more soul, plenty guitar, less classic (and shopworn) songs ("Love Her With a Feeling," "Little Dab-a-Doo") *

Buddy Guy: Heavy Love [Silvertone, 1998]
past 60 and feeling it, he's relaxing more and feeling that too ("Midnight Train," "Did Somebody Make a Fool Out of You") ***

Last Time Around: Live at Legends [Silvertone, 1998]
They last performed together in 1993, half a decade before Wells died, and they fit like an old pair of shoes, picking up on cues that haven't even been delivered yet. The first "What'd I Say," a highlight twice, takes off on the clicks, moans, squeals, hoots, and chicken squawks Wells cuts into Guy's vocal, and again and again classic titles from their book and everyone else's are adjusted to accommodate classic lines from the universe of blues readymades. Take this as a passport to that universe, but don't expect anyone to sell you a map. A-

Buddy Guy: Sweet Tea [Silvertone, 2001]
Dragged bitching and moaning down to Fat Possum, Mississippi, to sing a sheaf of nonhits written by rubes in overalls he'd never heard of, the great totem of Chicago blues gets large on the pop process in which a producer induces an artist with more talent than concept to make a good album. That Dennis Herring boasts among his credits Counting Crows and Jars of Clay only proves George Martin's Law: You can lead a horse with no name to the mic, but you can't hum a few bars of "Love Me Do" and expect him to sing it for you. And since this producer also collects antique amplifiers, not only did he introduce his new property to the untapped songbook of Junior Kimbrough et al., he hooked the property's snazzy guitar to machines so raunchy they make his old Chess stuff sound like Motown. Adding a showman's drama to the kind of material that normally requires a porch or roadhouse, he created a landmark of neoprimitivism. May it outsell every soul record he's ever made soon enough for him to try it again. A-

Buddy Guy: Blues Singer [Silvertone, 2003]
still more real folk blues--no, more than that even ("Moanin' and Groanin'," "Lucy Mae Blues") *

Buddy Guy: Bring 'Em In [Silvertone, 2005]
Blues subpatriarch claims soul as his dominion ("I Put a Spell on You," "Ninety Nine and One Half"). ***

Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues [Rhino Handmade, 2005]
The classic Guy-Wells album remains Delmark's 1966 Hoodoo Man Blues, which is credited to Wells. Runner-up is this relaxed, whiteboy-garnished 1972 set, now augmented with nine previously unissued new songs that fit the bill and four previously unissued alternate mixes that don't. Guy gets major vocal space, top-billed because in 1972 his expansive guitar chops had some racial optimist at Atlantic seeing stardom. He'll never be as distinctive a singer--Wells had a sound. But the older man gave Guy valuable laying back lessons, which he forgets to excellent effect whamming home Little Brother Montgomery's "First Time I Met the Blues." [Recyclables]

Junior Wells: Live at Theresa's 1975 [Delmark, 2006]
Including a "Snatch It Back and Hold It" that incorporates "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" ("Scratch My Back," "Little by Little," "Happy Birthday"). ***

Buddy Guy: Born to Play Guitar [Silvertone, 2015]
At 79, last Chicago blues master standing nabs cameos, nails songs by his Berklee-trained drummer, survives the Muscle Shoals Horns, and claims his birthright yet again ("Come Back Muddy," "Kiss Me Quick") **

See Also