MUSIC: Buddy Guy Owns The Blues + Rocks Out The Park Theatre

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


View Larger +

No one does it better--blues master Buddy Guy preaches to a sold-out house at Cranston's Park Theatre. Photo: Ken Abrams.

Last Friday night at the Park Theatre, the nation’s leading ambassador of the Blues made a triumphant stop in Rhode Island. For the second consecutive year, Buddy Guy filled the Park to its 1006-seat capacity, a rare feat for a performer labeled a “Blues” artist. Before the night ended, it was clear why – he is one of the finest performers on tour today.

Quinn Sullivan

14 year old guitar phenom and New Bedford, MA native Quinn Sullivan opened the show. Buddy Guy’s young apprentice impressed the audience with his skill, proving that he is no novelty act – his guitar playing is the real deal.  And it's not just technical (although you can see the product of many hours of practice); he appears to have an intuitive understanding of the Blues. He’s a rare talent, humble, and eager to learn.

Opening with Eric Clapton’s driving rocker “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” he spent some time paying homage to the “masters.” On his original song “She Gets Me,” his solo work recalls Allman Brother’s guitarist Derek Trucks. And on “Little Wing,” Sullivan’s dynamic style evokes the memory of Jimi Hendrix. For a moment, you had the feeling that Jimi was smiling down on the scene – in full approval of his old friend Buddy Guy mentoring the young talent Quinn Sullivan.

While some might argue that Sullivan still has to “live the blues” to play them, you just have to close your eyes and listen - then decide.  Sure, his voice is a work in progress, but his guitar playing is top notch. Besides, he’s an American teenage kid in the 21st century; if that isn’t living the blues, I don’t know what is!

Buddy Guy

With six Grammy Awards, Presidential medals, and numerous other honors, Buddy Guy’s Blues credentials are rock solid. His style of play falls at the exact spot where Rock and Blues meet, a wonderful but sometimes treacherous place at the crossroads connecting the two genres.

He opened the show with a rousing version of his hit “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues.” Throughout the evening, Guy shared his vast reservoir of Blues wisdom with those in attendance. You could hear a pin drop as the audience hung on every word. Behind his airtight band, the Louisiana born legend offered up a concise history of modern blues, sharing examples of styles made famous by artists such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Albert King.

Among the stories was a memorable account drenched in irony. At one point in Guy’s illustrious career, it seems critics complained about him sounding too much like Eric Clapton and Steve Ray Vaughn. He also shared his memory of a moment with Jimi Hendrix, who asked permission to copy Guy after seeing him play guitar with his teeth. Guy still "strums" with his teeth when he is so moved, exploring the full sonic range of his "axe."

In his trademark polka dot shirt, (modeled after his polka dot guitar), Guy is the consummate showman playing in the aisles to the “Smartphone Paparazzi.” His pure joy in singing the blues comes through on “74 Years Young.”  Noting he wrote the song 3 years ago, Guy’s blistering solo proves the master is still on top of his game. When he sings that he’s been “drinking wine with Kings and Rolling Stones,” you realize he’s talking about real lives kings, as well as BB.

Guy has seen a lot of the world in his 77 years. Growing up in Louisiana and moving to Chicago in the late 1950’s, he’s seen his share of the ugly side of America. His experience and enduring optimism come into focus on the song “Skin Deep,” from his 2008 album of the same name. It’s a gospel-tinged blues number that reminded us that “Skin Deep, underneath we all are the same.”  The artist arrives at that universal message of tolerance the hard way…

“A man in Louisiana, he never called me by my name, 
He said "boy do this and boy do that," but I never once complained. 
I knew he had a good heart, but he just didn't understand, 
That I needed to be treated, just like any other man.”

It’s fair to say that Buddy Guy owns the blues, we’re just lucky he’s shares them now and then. To hear for yourself, pick up his latest album, Rhythm and Blues. And for more Quinn Sullivan, pick up his new release Getting There. Check out the Park Theater schedule for more great shows this season, including another Blues great, Jonny Lang, on November 15. 

Ken Abrams reviews Roots, Rock and Blues for GoLocalProv. He can be reached at [email protected].


Enjoy this post? Share it with others.


Sign Up for the Daily Eblast

I want to follow on Twitter

I want to Like on Facebook


Stay Connected — Free
Daily Email