Buddy Guy

Recently I was on a random MySpace page when it started playing music. Normally I hate it when this happens. However, the song had a nice start - organic drums, overdriven bass, heavy twang. Stoner metal, perhaps? Then I heard the voice: an actual bluesman. "Oh, baby, baby, please don't leave me," he implored, over and over again. Guitar and bass trembled in groaning unisons. I was hooked.

To my surprise, it was Buddy Guy. I associate him with a more tart Chicago blues style. But here he was, tuned down to C, crawling through down home Mississippi sounds. I had to find out more. Turns out that he cut a record in 2001 called Sweet Tea. It paid tribute to Mississippi's Fat Possum label, with covers of songs by Junior Kimbrough, T-Model Ford, and CeDell Davis, among others.

I was briefly into Fat Possum in the '90s. Of its artists, Kimbrough particularly caught my ear. His songs were dark, driving, and hypnotic. They went on and on, rarely changing chords, massaging riffs into hips and feet. I would have loved to have visited his legendary juke joint. Shoulders probably shook; alcohol probably flowed; eyelids probably drooped. If you don't know Junior Kimbrough, do yourself a favor and get Sad Days, Lonely Nights.

Not only did Guy cover Kimbrough's "Baby Please Don't Leave Me," a wide stylistic detour, he made the song utterly his. In Kimbrough's hands, on the odds-and-ends collection Meet Me in the City, the song was spidery and rambling. (Somewhere in there is a Motörhead riff.) Its lo-fi miasma is a direct precursor to American weirdo black metaller Wrnlrd. In Guy's hands, the song cried, cajoled, threatened, and heaved. It wasn't metal, but it was heavy. No wonder Black Sabbath was once called Earth Blues Company.

- Cosmo Lee

More From Invisible Oranges