By Todd Beebe
Music of every style can boast landmark recordings that introduce or reintroduce specific genres to the public. The blues certainly has had its share. Robert Johnson’s Vocalion recordings have long been sought out by listeners as a source for how solo, acoustic blues is done. B.B. King’s Live At The Regal has been called the epitome of electric blues playing, and Howlin’ Wolf’s Rockin’ Chair LP has long mesmerized listeners with perhaps the most unique vocal/classic blues combination ever.
In 1991, Buddy Guy’s Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues was released and sent the general public (many unfamiliar with the blues) scurrying to grab a copy and hear the man that Eric Clapton was calling “the greatest living guitarist.” Buddy had been playing the blues for a long time, and as the 90’s dawned, he was eager to release a new album. Silvertone Records came calling and paired Guy up with artists that revered him. Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler are guests on the LP and were thrilled to be recording with one of their heroes.
The album kicks off with the title track, and Guy wastes no time letting you know he’s here to play the blues. You can hear the fire and eagerness here, and this track is still played in Buddy’s sets today and is a showcase for all things Buddy Guy.
The John Hiatt penned “Where Is The Next One Coming From?” follows, giving Buddy a modern, contemporary track to lay his blues on. This track was commercial enough to receive decent airplay (and still does) but manages to retain Buddy’s blues roots.
Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” hits us next, assuring us that things are not going to get too commercial here, and BG really lets it rip.
Just when you thought the guitar licks couldn’t get any better on Damn Right, “Too Broke To Spend The Night” comes in with guitars blazing
Wilson Pickett’s version of “Mustang Sally” is widely known, so Buddy takes his version in a totally different direction. People wanted to hear Buddy’s much-talked-about guitar playing, so here he brings in the great Jeff Beck and turns this track into a guitar lover’s dream. Beck and Guy trade licks and leave everyone understanding why Beck has long dropped Buddy’s name as THE man for playing the blues. “Mustang Sally” still gets decent airplay today, and was another smart choice to include on Buddy’s Silvertone debut.
The first four tracks proved to the world that Buddy Guy’s guitar playing was better than ever, so “There Is Something On Your Mind” showcases Buddy’s amazing voice. To have great guitar and vocal chops is a rarity, but our Buddy Guy has them both. The man delivers this tune with enough soul to remind us of Otis Redding, but enough edge to call it blues. It serves as a reminder that that Buddy has influenced innumerable guitarists and vocalists.
“Early In The Morning” comes up next, and the great Memphis Horns are blasting loud and proud. The Horns consist of Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love. They’ve played on countless classic recordings, and they add a great dynamic to this entire album.
Just when you thought the guitar licks couldn’t get any better on Damn Right, “Too Broke To Spend The Night” comes in with guitars blazing. People have often told me they love Buddy Guy because he has enough rock edge in his guitar tone to appeal to people who are more casual blues fans. His tone on this track in particular reassures that statement, showing us that when it comes to bringing the fire, no one can touch Buddy Guy.
…this album will always carry a magic that shows the blues will never die…
“Black Night” brings the tempo down and shows that not only can the man rip, but he can dig into a slow blues like nobody’s business. Refusing to change dynamics and charge ahead, Buddy shows us how to lay into a track and keep it right where it should be – a classic example of not overplaying when the song doesn’t call for it.
In true contrast to “Black Night”, Willie Dixon’s “Let Me Love You Baby” blasts out of the speakers as if Buddy’s guitar was being held captive. This one has been covered by a lot of artists including Stevie Ray Vaughan, who originally heard the version Buddy recorded in the 60’s.
Vaughan lost his life on August 27, 1990. He loved Buddy Guy, and dropped his name very chance he could. So the final track on Damn Right, “Rememberin’ Stevie,” is a fitting tribute from Buddy to SRV. The instrumental shows Buddy digging in and playing the Blues without any thought but Stevie Ray and what he meant to him. It doesn’t get any better than this.
In 1991, Buddy Guy was ready to show the world he was still playing the blues to the best of his ability, and Damn Right’ I’ve Got The Blues did just that. The album has stood the test of time and was reissued and expanded in 2005 with 2 bonus tracks,
“Doin’ What I Like Best” and “Trouble Don’t Last.” Buddy has released many great recordings on the Silvertone label since Damn Right, but this album will always carry a magic that shows the blues will never die, and are alive and well inside anyone that commits their life to playing them. Thank you, Buddy Guy, for doing just that.