In my mind, blues music really begins to suffer when the electric guitar is introduced. Give me one blind dude and an acoustic, and I’m all set. Of course, good music is good music, and even my most hated of styles can boast exceptions to my cranky and opinionated rules. One such special case is George “Buddy” Guy. I was completely ready to hate on him, but after a few listens to choice cuts, I’m going to admit I was wrong (this is rare). There’s a reason certain musicians graduate into legends, and with Guy’s upcoming performance at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, you have the chance to discover why he’s been bestowed the title. Check out five reasons why you need to be at this show.
Dude’s an Icon
At 75 years old, Buddy Guy has influenced and worked with so many musicians, it’s downright impressive. His list of collaborators includes Jimi Hendrix, Howlin’ Wolf, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. The interesting thing is that even though Guy worked alongside big names, he toiled in relative obscurity until 1991’s Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues. I’m not saying he was a no-name performer, just that he wasn’t part of the general public’s musical lexicon. Plenty of awards followed the record (what’s up, Grammy?), and Guy skyrocketed into superstardom. It’s only fair, too, as he totally out-shreds just about everyone who cites him as an influence.
Dude’s a Shredder
With the Fender Stratocaster as his signature instrument, Guy is the string-bending-est guitar player ever. In fact, his solos can be so complex and intricate, they make me wonder how the hell he remembers what he’s supposed to be playing. Eric Clapton has described Guy as “without a doubt, the best guitar player alive.” If Clapton is sayin’ you’re awesome, it must be so.
Do you ever get the feeling that somebody singing the blues doesn’t deserve to do so? Santa Fe especially has a surplus of older guys whose songs of sadness seem suspect. It makes plenty of sense for a blind black man in the ’30s to be bummed out, not the dude with the sprawling Canyon Road adobe. On Guy’s newest single, “Stay Around a Little Longer,” he talks about how he knows God put him on the planet to play the blues, but at the same time, he loves his life. It’s refreshing to hear a bluesman sing something to the effect of, “Sure, I get sad sometimes, but life is pretty sweet!”
Dude Went Acoustic
In 2003, Guy released the all-acoustic Blues Singer. Recalling work by iconic bluesmen Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lead Belly, Singer is the perfect example of a traditional blues record. We live in a world in which acoustic releases from electric artists are novelties, but in Guy’s case, there is no question of authenticity. The transition between recording setups hasn’t been this smooth since fellow electric-blues musician Snooks Eaglin made 2005’s New Orleans Street Singer.
Dude’s Coming to Town
We can sit here all day discussing the merits and shortcomings of blues, but one fact remains: This show is happening. Santa Fe is slowly dipping its toes into a wider variety of live music—The Pixies, Morrissey, etc.—and having a musician who has put out good tunes for nearly seven decades come by is nothing to scoff at. Keep in mind that, if someone like me can set aside years of electric-blues hatred and see Buddy Guy’s excellence, there may just be something worthwhile about him and his ass-kickin’ guitar playing.