Buddy Guy
"Skin Deep"
Silvertone Zomba Records

Blueswax 9
Rating 9

Digging Deep, (08/20/08)

Five-time Grammy winner Buddy Guy's latest album is titled Skin Deep. Checkout the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who has created a disc of twelve tracks and enlisted fellow guitar contemporaries Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks on his tenth studio release on the Silvertone/Zomba label. But luminaries aside, drill down and checkout the top-notch supporting session players here, including Willie Mitchell's horn arrangements on the opening track; the extremely talented bassist Willie Weeks; keyboard ace Reese Wynans, who has played alongsideSRV and others, regally grace every track; plus Texas superman guitarist David Grissom is on board for eleven of twelve tunes. Add to the mix stellar names likeBonnie and Bekka Bramlett, Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward, eight-year-old guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan, and the wonderful production work of Tom Hambridge, who also doubles as the most often used drummer on this excellent recording. So what we have here is one disc that should garner its share of Grammy votes.

Skin Deep kicks off at near full throttle on the Guy/Hambridge "Best Damn Fool" co-write wherein Guy is explosive (and a bit reminiscent of the sorely missed Son Seals) in front of Willie Mitchell's superb horn charts and stellar backing band. It's just too bad they did not employ Mitchell's services on any other tracks though, but not to worry, as there is plenty else to like here.

Other highlights include Hambridge's "Too Many Tears," which has the album's first guest spot by the husband and wife team of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. Guy trades vocal duties with a very sharp sounding Tedeschi, then jams with the always fascinating Trucks, thus making this track my second favorite on Skin Deep. The songwriting team of Guy/Hambridge strikes again on "Show Me The Money," this time aided by the good-time backing vocals of Bekka Bramlett and Wendy Moten.

Okay, here's my favorite track, the Hambridge/Gary Nicholson-penned "Every Time I Sing the Blues," which features not only the superlative guitar work of Eric Clapton, but Clapton also adds strong vocals. After a nice vocal intro, the fireworks ignite first with an expansive guitar solo by Guy that slowly simmers, then boils up before winding down to a sweet exquisite crawl, clocking in at nearly eight minutes. It's noteworthy to mention that Guy's guitar offers some of the most creative work I have heard on record from him.

After observing Guy and Robert Randolph work so perfectly late last year at the Jimi Hendrix Experience show in New York City, it's no wonder to see them team up on the rocking "That's My Home," authored by Hambridge and Richard Fleming. The gorgeous "Skin Deep," by Guy and Nicholson, brings back Derek Trucks for his second appearance and shows a rare emotional side of Guy's writing skills and the sweet background vocals by Bonnie and Bekka Bramlett put this track over the top.

In a career spanning more than forty-five years the seventy-two-year-old Buddy Guy has not sounded this sharp in years, both vocally and on guitar. Kudos to producer Tom Hambridge for his outstanding work making this album work as well as it does and to all the featured stars and sidemen, who seemingly gave their all for Guy. Earlier on I mentioned about Skin Deep garnering its share of Grammy votes, but upon multiple listens I smell a well-deserved Grammy victory here for Guy's Skin Deep, and a big win for the Blues community!

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com