If Dave Matthews' sappy songcraft sounds like a pretty soggy way to spend your Tuesday night, consider taking in Buddy Guy's set at Saturday's House of Blues Music Festival first--the Chicago blues legend might scare you so bad you'll appreciate Matthews' aural analgesic. Just a few years ago, that might not have been the case: Guy had become a blues-industry institution, running the Windy City's preeminent blues joint and making a series of variations on 1991's Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, the disc that earned him a Grammy and the appreciation of Eric Clapton-loving white guys everywhere. Yet conscious of his slackening reputation among blues purists (or not), Guy took to the northern Mississippi hill country (that fertile slice of the Deep South that has fueled Fat Possum Records and produced white-guy purists the North Mississippi All Stars) and sequestered himself in a studio called Sweet Tea, jolting his ass back to what got him in the game in the first place and laying down an album (also called Sweet Tea) of raw electric blues about being old and as unhappy as ever. "Well, I done got old," he croaks right off the bat, "can't do the things I used to do, 'cause I'm an old man." The songs on the album, most by hill country vets like Junior Kimbrough and T-Model Ford, bear that out, caked in mud-thick distortion and the kind of reverb that sounds like it's been transmitted across a couple of decades. And Guy's totally up to the task, letting loose a spine-tingling primal scream on Kimbrough's "Baby Please Don't Leave Me" and wringing solos that aren't much more than shards of manic energy from his guitar. Which is to say that Guy's only half-right: While he can't do the things he used to do, he's now got a whole new bag of tricks at his disposal. Think he could use a hug?
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