Sunday, April 10, 2022

Buddy Guy: True to the Blues

Why would you ever interrupt Buddy Guy, even if it was to help tell his story? After all, the best way to understand Guy is through his music. Conceived as a companion piece to Devin Amar, Matt Michener & Charles Todd’s Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away (which aired last year as part of American Masters), viewers can finally watch a good number of the excerpted performances in their full and complete glory during Buddy Guy: True to the Blues, which airs Thursday night on New York’s PBS Thirteen (and is available on the PBS app).

True to the Blues
more or less follows the chronology of Chase, but it only incorporates brief snippets of the film’s biographical context. This time, the music is front and center. Many of the selections are drawn from Live, the Real Deal, recorded in 1996, and rather logically, his appearances on PBS’s Austin City Limits.

We also see Guy performing a few songs solo for Amar and company, including the first he ever learned, John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen.’” His laidback rendition sounds totally cool, but it still has that driving beat. Appropriately, “The First Time I Met the Blues” appears after Guy discusses his initial meeting with Muddy Waters, while “Let Me Love You Baby” follows his reminiscences of the British rockers who championed him. The latter features a particularly blistering guitar solo and a jazzy horn line.

Despite being on PBS,
True to the Blues nicely features Guy’s humor, which in traditional blues fashion, can be a bit “colorful.” The opening to “Nine Below Zero” is indeed a little ribald, and he slyly works the double entendre of “Five Long Years,” placing the tongue-in-cheek blame on the original writer, Harpo Slim (he also finds a place to quote from his popular take on “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). Plus, blues fans get a couple bonuses, hearing Guy perform with Shemekia Copeland on “Cognac” and Jimmie Vaughan on “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues,” his first Grammy Award winner (7 more would follow).

Suddenly, Buddy Guy has become one of America’s best documented musicians. In addition to
True to the Blues, and Blues Chases the Blues Away, The Torch opened in theaters not so long ago. It is easy to see why. Buddy Guy radiates authenticity. He came up from modest roots and just kept plugging away for years, before he was finally recognized as a true master. Very highly recommended (precisely because so much of it is pure music), Buddy Guy: True to the Blues airs Thursday (4/14) on WNET 13 and possibly other local PBS outlets nationwide (as it was clearly conceived as pledge break programming).