Legend. A term bandied about a lot in today’s pop culture, especially when it comes to the music industry. The term is used so frequently that a lot of times it seems watered down and loses its meaning altogether. Then there are the times when that badge of honor seems small in comparison to the person it is describing. Such is the case for legendary electric blues icon Buddy Guy. George “Buddy” Guy, born in Lettsworth, Louisiana back in 1936, earned his chops in the 1960s, playing with blues icon Muddy Waters as a house guitarist at Chicago’s famed Chess Records. If that isn’t enough (and it is), Buddy has earned seven Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 by none other than Eric Clapton.
Guy has influenced multiple generations of great electric blues men including Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Buddy has been instrumental in securing the future of the blues as an American musical art form by fostering the next generation of blues musicians. Such is the case of 17 year old blues prodigy and New Bedford, Massachusetts native Quinn Sullivan.
Sullivan opened at Buddy Guy’s August 15 performance at the Hart Theater at the Empire Performing Arts Center in Albany. He is currently touring in support of his third LP Midnight Highway that was released in January of this year. Discovered by Guy at the tender age of seven, Sullivan in the last ten years has already amassed a career with credits that most musicians would kill for. He has performed at Eric Clapton’s blues showcase Crossroads in 2013 and has had the privilege of playing with the late, great B.B. King. The Damn Right Blues Band played double duty during the night’s performance, backing up both Sullivan and Guy through both their sets. The roster of the band includes Tom Hambridge on drums, Orlando Wright on bass, Ric Hall on guitar and Marty Sammons on keyboards.
Sullivan kicked off his second appearance at The Egg with the radio friendly “Lifting Off” off of Midnight Highway and though still a teenager, Sullivan looked like a seasoned veteran on the stage. Sullivan’s impressive guitar playing abilities were showcased spectacularly with a version of the blues classic “Little Wing” that would have made both Hendrix and Clapton proud. The highlight of the 45 minute set was title track “Midnight Highway” which illustrated an advanced level of song craftsmanship which was completely on point. After a brief intermission, it was Buddy Guy’s turn to take the stage. Guy was greeted by an an extremely enthusiastic and rowdy crowd. Mr. Guy went straight into a ripping version of “Damn Right I Got The Blues” which featured a sublime piano solo by keyboardist Marty Sammons. Buddy set the raucous tone of the night’s performance by commencing a series of pelvic thrusts that hearkened back to the days of Elvis Presley, much to the delight of an appreciative audience. Mr. Guy told the crowd that he was going to “play it so funky you can smell it.” One crowd member chimed back, “We can smell it.”
The high point of the performance came later in the set when Buddy busted out a spirited version of “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In” off of his 1994 release Slippin’ In. The 81 year old Guy took the party off the stage by playing the number while strutting around the excited crowd.
Guy, who is a consummate story teller, went on to tell the audience how he met Sullivan and was so impressed with his ability to play guitar that he wound up taking him to Clapton’s Crossroads festival. Sullivan joined Guy on stage where they proceeded to trade guitar licks back and forth before Sullivan went into a medley of Clapton’s “Strange Brew” and Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile w/ Slight Return.”
Things got a bit serious when Buddy brought up the tumultuous state of race relations in America, a reference to the recent violence that unfolded at a white supremacy rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier in the month. Mr. Guy went into a stirring version of “Skin Deep” which preaches love and understanding between all people regardless of race or religion, pointing out that our differences are skin deep. The 90 minute set concluded on more of a high note with Guy’s rendition of “Meet Me In Chicago” which left the audience on their feet. Guy will be continuing to play throughout the remainder of the summer with dates scheduled into the fall.
Quinn Sullivan: Lifting Off, Getting There, Little Wing, Cyclone, Midnight Highway, She Gets Me, Going
Buddy Guy: Damn Right I Got The Blues, Hoochie Coochie Man, Fever, Born To Play Guitar, Grits Ain’t Groceries, Whose Making Love To Your Old Lady, Boom Boom, She’s 19 years Old, Sweet 16, Someone Else is Steppin’ In, Ain’t That Peculiar, Well Alright, StrangeBrew/Voodoo Child w/ Slight Return (Medley), Feels Like Rain, Skin Deep, Meet Me In Chicago