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REVIEW: “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” Buddy Guy and John Hiatt & the Goners (Mystic Lake)

Clockwise from upper-left: musicians Sonny Landreth, Buddy Guy, John Hiatt, and Marty Sammon were part of the lineups for a double-bill concert at Mystic Lake on Sunday evening.

It was an amazing night at Mystic Lake to appreciate the under-appreciated, as John Hiatt shared the bill with Buddy Guy.

Hiatt is a songwriter’s songwriter, with works performed by everyone from Three Dog Night to Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan to Chaka Khan.  It is perhaps emblematic of his career that he is an 11-time Grammy nominee, but has yet to win. However, those in the field know him well: Hiatt’s industry association honors include a Lifetime Achievement in Songwriting award from the Americana Music Association and a BMI Troubadour award; he is also in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Multi-genre singer-songwriter John Hiatt in concert.

Last night, Hiatt appeared backed by his band The Goners, with David Ranson on electric bass, Kenneth Blevins on drums, and another underappreciated musical treasure: slide guitar specialist, Sonny Landreth. (Landreth did a solo show at The Dakota just a few months back). Among the familiar songs of the set were “Feels Like Rain” (best known from Buddy Guy’s version) and “Thing Called Love” (best known from Bonnie Raitt’s version – she will be at The Ledge Amphitheater later this week).

Hiatt carried a wide grin, even when singing his songs about loss and heartache. Like pretty much every musician one sees in concert these days, he is (as he told the audience) just thrilled to be playing live events again. Hiatt’s set also included “Slow Turning” (the only Hiatt song to chart with Hiatt’s own performance), and other Hiatt classics as “Memphis in the Meantime”, “Tennessee Plates”, and “Have a Little Faith in Me”. Sonny Landreth also took a turn on the microphone to do his powerful “Congo Square” (see this classic video of his playing that song a decade back, with the help of Derek Trucks).

Blues guitarist and singer George “Buddy” Guy.

It may seem strange to say that Buddy Guy, an 8-time Grammy award winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is under-appreciated, but Guy has always bemoaned the lack of radio play for the Blues songs he loves, and how it took the Rolling Stones to force (white) clubs and music programs to include the classic Blues players he grew up idolizing and imitating. This is a tip-of-the-iceberg anecdote: Guy and the Stones actually had a great mutual appreciation – just see the joy in Guy’s interaction with both Mick Jagger and Keith Richard when performing “Champagne and Reefer”. It was a story he repeated again during his set, while otherwise maintaining the mischievous showman persona he has perfected over the decades.

Guy also gave full value to the expected classics – songs like:

  • “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues”,
  • “Hoochie Coochie Man” (which he introduced by saying, “I’m going to play something so funky you can smell it”),
  • “She’s Nineteen Years Old”,
  • “I Just Want to Make Love to You”,
  • “Grits Ain’t Groceries”,
  • “Downhearted”,
  • “Take Me to the River”,
  • “Slippin’ In,” and
  • a finish with the anti-racism anthem “Skin Deep”.

As always, Guy had a solid back-up band, featuring the great Marty Sammon on keyboards.

Those who had seen Guy many times before knew what to expect:  wonderfully flamboyant outfits, famous guitar riffs (Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton from Cream) played with a drum stick on the guitar, going out into the audience during a song, creativity with feedback and one-arm guitar work, and so on. Like every other Buddy Guy show, it all worked marvelously well. This is astonishing for any performer, but especially for one who will turn 86 years old next week.

Brian Bix