Buddy Guy
Heavy Love
Silvertone 01241-41632-2

Chicago’s biggest living blues star has been doing this for almost five decades, but he’s still determined to please everybody. So, as with his 1991 breakthrough Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues, he hands out fun versions of two ultra-familiar songs — Louis Jordan’s ’40s jump standard "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and Willie Dixon’s ’50s classic, "I Just Want to Make Love to You." The former is surprisingly loyal to the original, with Guy simply replacing Jordan’s mugging with weary soul; he’s much more comfortable on the latter, a Muddy Waters signature, and his experiment with funky rhythm guitar pays off.

To further win over the tourists, Guy collaborates with hunky teen phenom Jonny Lang, who frequently shrieks like Michael Bolton but subdues himself enough to make "Midnight Train" a strong duet. Guy’s subtle, understated singing is a nice foil for Lang’s high-pitched lack of restraint.

Guy has always soaked his blues with soul, and the emphasis is more pronounced than ever on Heavy Love — the front cover has Guy dressed in a Technicolor suit and lounging in a ’70s-style space-pod chair, and the dominant grooves come from wah-wah rhythm guitar and electric piano. Guy’s guitar improvisations are as explosive as always, especially on "I Got a Problem" and "Need You Tonight," but his emerging soul identity has become much more interesting than the jamming.

This approach peaks beautifully on the last song, the methodical blues "Let Me Show You," which begins in a sad whisper and grows into a howl. Guy has always earned plenty of attention for his fingers; it’s time to apply the same superlatives to his soft, tearful, underrated voice, which has been maturing for years up to the Bobby "Blue" Bland level.

— Steve Knopper



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Boulder, CO, USA.