Buddy Guy – Skin Deep

If you’re going to talk about the Blues with someone who has only a passing interest in the genre, it’s still rather likely that they’ve heard of Buddy Guy. Perhaps it’s all those guitar festivals that he attends, maybe it’s just because his performances are so memorable, or maybe it’s because he has one of the coolest names ever, who knows? It certainly can’t be because he’s one of the greatest Blues men of this or any other time, no people usually don’t notice that:

...maybe it could also be because he has 4 hands, and 2 of them are see-through!This is Skin Deep, Buddy’s newest album, and in my opinion, the best one since Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues, though there are literally dozens of albums he’s done that I have yet to hear, so don’t take my word for it.

Skin Deep does what very few Blues albums do, in that it starts off with some jammin’ hits, but by the time you’re at the end of the album, you’ll be thinking some pretty deep thoughts about the destiny of one of the most beloved (by people who aren’t stupid) genres of American culture. Not too bad for a man in his 70’s now, eh?

I would defy you to listen to the first song, “Best Damn Fool”, and tell me that’s a man in his mid-70’s playing those ripped-up guitar solos and singing this vibrant song. Honestly, I’m in my mid-20’s and I could only hope to have half of this man’s energy. The lyrics are amazing too, dirty, funny, and all Blues:

I’m the one and only, I’m the one man that you won’t forget
I’m the one and only (Buddy Guy, that is) I’m the one man that you won’t forget
I can make a bulldog kiss a pussycat
I’m the best damn fool you ever met

I understand that a lot of this album features Derek Trucks, notable musical child of one or more of the Allman Brothers, and that’s just fine, he’s a pretty good guitarist. It’s his wife, Susan Tedeschi, that I am kind of hesitant about.

Indeed, Susan joins Buddy Guy in singing the next track, “Too Many Tears”, and I don’t know what it is about her vocal delivery that rubs me the wrong way, so I won’t serve up any real criticism of it, except to say that it rubs me the wrong way. Still, if this blohg is any indication, you’ll notice that I’m highly picky about female vocalists, I still can’t explain why.

“Lyin’ Like A Dog” is one of those slow Blues-by-numbers songs (my favorite of which is Weird Al Yankovic’s “Generic Blues”), and I do love this song, particularly for its interesting way of treating the age-old problem of women doing someone wrong. Basically, he blames his partner’s infidelity on a lack of self-not-giving-a-damn-about, and seeks to help her out with that, it’s very forward-thinking and psychological for a Blues song, quite impressive!

“Show Me The Money” is a nice mid-tempo number about how women are always looking for money. It features some dialogue against the mid-song guitar solo between Buddy Guy, and a certain female backup singer. This song is pretty great, mainly for the line “The only thing better than money/ is a pile of that cold, hard cash”. I love Buddy Guy’s lyrics for this reason.

After this kind of “hit-maker” sequence of songs, the album takes a turn toward the profound with “Every Time I Sing The Blues”. It’s in a minor key, first off, which gives it that sense of importance (Blues often are major key, you see), and it’s a dissertation on why someone would want to sing the Blues, and Buddy enlists the help of guitar legend Eric Clapton to help explain. It’s an awe-inspiring song if you’re into the Blues at all, and if you aren’t, why are you reading today’s entry?

“Out In The Woods” is an interesting song that combines Buddy’s electric lead with Derek Truck’s acoustic slide guitar, at least that’s what I remember reading, information on this album is so scarce on the internet, and the liner notes are all the way over there. The song is about someone who lived in the woods all his life, and one of the lines says that all the crocodiles and bears and such know him by his name. Why would a wild animal know your name? Do you go around introducing yourself to all the animals? Such a mystery is this outdoors life of his.

“Hammer And Nail” takes a bit of a turn back to the cheeky blues where the whole thing leads up to a “stinger” line (a favorite way for Buddy Guy to convey his bluesy messages). Yes, every verse in this funky classic ends on “You can’t beat that with a hammer and nail”. Sometimes writing about Blues albums is too easy, that’s why I don’t do it all that often.

Skipping ahead a little, the album tries to take you into a sentimental direction with the song “Skin Deep”, which I guess is the point of the whole album. The song is about treating each other right, regardless of color, you see, because color is “skin deep”. I have to admit, and maybe it’s because of the simplistic nature of the Blues or perhaps it’s Buddy’s age, but this song is so very hard to take seriously because it’s so riddled with clichés that have been in service for centuries now (seriously, “don’t judge a book by its cover” makes an appearance in the text of the song). So, say what you will about it, this song didn’t do much for me.

Now, “Who’s Gonna Fill These Shoes” is a song that really moved me. Buddy makes it apparent that the Blues are going away, and that nobody’s really around now to fill those shoes. It’s not only a historical lesson on how the Blues got started, but it also presents a sad realization (whether knowingly or not) that Buddy is among the last in a great generation of amazing Blues singers. Who is going to fill those shoes? Man, I can’t think of anyone who’s still going that isn’t a senior citizen, and that’s kind of distressing.

“Smell The Funk” is the kind of title for a song that makes me want to withhold what the song is actually about, because I can.

Finally, the album ends with a song that I consider to be one of the most amazing Blues songs ever to be written. Not just for its melodic quality or lyrical content, but just the very essence of the song “I Found Happiness” blows my mind:

I finally found out what I’ve been looking and waiting for
And there ain’t too damn much else I have to say
Hey, I finally found out what I’ve been looking and waiting for
And there ain’t too damn much else I have to say
Except… she’s just like a fitness machine, and we work out every day

That’s right, an honest-to-God anti-Blues song. If that doesn’t signify the End Time of the Blues, I don’t know what will.

I know what will signify the end of another album writeup here at Album Du Jour, so please join us tomorrow!


One Response

  1. I’ve been watching Stephen Fry in America, and Buddy Guy shows him around all of the big Chicago blues places, and they’re all empty lots. It’s enough to give a guy the…erm…blues. Even if I never go to Chicago.

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