Sweet Tea

Buddy Guy

Silvertone Records, 2001

http://www.buddyguy.net

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/17/2001

Though it is a given Buddy Guy is one of the best blues players on the planet, the last couple of years have put a slight tarnish on the legend's reputation: Some of his releases had a bit too much studio gloss applied and his club, Buddy Guy's Legends, may have ticked off some blues purists much like the House of Blues.

Be it inspiration or a calculated image makeover, Guy went back to the deep, dark, woodshed-like blues style which has been a trademark of the best work of Guy's influences, mainly Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. At the same time, by using a deep, repetative bass line in a couple of his songs, Guy's latest album, Sweet Tea, has an odd sort of futuristic sound to it. It's almost as if Guy has been listening to Portishead and Massive Attack during some off-time on his tour.

The first song, "Done Got Old," has Guy's voice sounding like a ghost blowing through the floorboards of a barn. "Well I done got old/I cain't do the things I used to do." Fairly simplistic lyrics, but when music is this powerful, screw subtle wording and metaphors. The second song, "Baby Please Don't Leave Me," features a ruthless, deep bass line, which will no doubt usher in some Portishead comparisons.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Most of the songs on Sweet Tea deal with the inevitable hard punches life deals, namely jilted love and mortality. Bob Dylan took this approach with Time Out Of Mind and was able to inject a renewed energy into his career. Though some may criticize Buddy Guy for drawing too much on Time Out Of Mind, they shouldn't. The album should be appreciated on its own merits.

Sweet Tea deserves a huge amount of credit for making epic songs seem like three-minute songs on the radio. One track, "I Gotta Try You Girl" lasts more than 12 minutes, but Guy's electric playing mesmerizes you enough not to look at your watch. On Sweet Tea, Guy also enlists a killer band lineup. Davey Faragher's bass sounds like it would be at home at a blues or a trip-hop album. Spam (no last name given) does just as good a job on rave-ups like "Look What All You Got" as he does on songs where the mood has to be slowed down, as in "Tramp."

Practically all of the songs on Sweet Tea are interpretations. Like Cowboy Junkies, Guy has made all eight of the covers on the album his own. Only on the closing track, "It's a Jungle Out There," does Guy have writing credits. This should not be a negative aspect of the album, however, if all of the tracks on Sweet Tea were originals, we would have a certified classified on our hands.

Like Dylan, Guy came on to the scene when popular music was in dire need of a hard-core ass-kicking. If you are a casual fan of the blues, Sweet Tea does a great job of integrating newer styles while maintaining an authenticity that would make blues purists proud. Perhaps the best reason to buy Sweet Tea is Guy's voice. Envigorated, confident and full of bluster, this album marks the comeback of an artist who has always been able to remain viable in all sorts of industry changes. One of his recent albums is titled Damn Right, I've Got The Blues; on Sweet Tea, it sounds like Guy could have called this album, "You God Damn Right, I've Got The Blues."

Rating: A-

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© 2001 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Silvertone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.