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Originally Published June 4, 2004
Buddy Guy and Jackie Greene Live At:
The Count Basie Theatre
Red Bank, New Jersey
By Mitch Lopate
Show reviews usually emphasize the main act, after all, it’s obviously whom the crowd has paid to see, reviewers included. However, this time, let’s give word about the opening act-because this kid not only kept Buddy Guy at bay for awhile with one heck of a performance, but he got himself a standing ovation and, in a place with the rich cast of performers gone before, that’s an admirable thing to see.
Yes, I got in a few minutes late, fiddled with the playbill, and occasionally looked up at the young man on stage-and then I found myself listening and watching with interest. Blowing a tasty Blues harmonica and really filling up the space in between with fluid and rich chords, Jackie Greene sang and played his way into the hearts and ears of the audience. Confidence, that’s one thing he had and his voice carried it strongly with the homespun lyrics that he poured out in a sensitive tenor. Maybe another Jackson Browne? The urge to catalogue him was immediate, but not as easy accomplished. The harmonica was vintage Dylan-and maybe Neil Young. The same for the guitar: on an acoustic, he looked as though he had been on stage for years, especially with the furious rhythm he set on several songs. Who did something like that…Buddy Holly? Maybe. Where did he get that maturity? Something like Waylon as a young man…and he finger-picks ballads (“Gracie”) like Willie did before he went grizzled and gray. But Jackie is skinny-has a mop of dark hair that sits under a porkpie hat-and looks like someone ought to take him home and keep him for a while.
At the 30-minute mark, it was obvious that the auditorium was locked in with him. That’s when he pulled out the seat to the keyboard setup and proceeded to ripple as fine a Boogie Woogie cabaret piano as Billy Joel can do-and yes, the harp was still clamped and honking. No fooling, this is why those lessons you quit in spite of your parents’ pleas were valuable. He’s also quite adept at Bluegrass banjo, electric guitar, and a Hammond B3, too, but that’s on the CD. That’s when I sauntered out to the lobby and looked for the vendors–where and who is this guy? I want what he’s playing out there. And yes, he’s made Rolling Stone‘s Top 10.
So why am I so surprised to see good talent like this on the circuit? I shouldn’t be if I had been following the news: From the dusty hills of Northern California comes another, steeped in the heritage and traditions of the wandering minstrel. Gone, released in November 2002, won the California Music Award for the “Best Blues/Roots Album” in May 2003, and has been on the national Americana Chart for over a year. In 2003, he toured nationally with singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, Blues master B.B. King, and Pop icon Huey Lewis, as well as multiple dates with John Hiatt, George Thorogood, and Taj Mahal. In virtually every venue, Green has set support act house records for CD sales off the bandstand and played high profile festival dates across the country the summer of 2003, including, the Newport Folk Festival, the Strawberry Music Festival, the Rhythm & Roots Festival, and the San Francisco Blues Festival. He’s sharing national tour duties with Jonny Lang and, of course, Buddy Guy.
And yes, the CD rocks-with good licks and rough-and-ready stuff. “Tell Me Mama, Tell Me Right” just slides ever so gracefully under your shuffling feet, “Mexican Girl” has Jackie torn between love and destiny, “Down in the Valley Woe” goes aloft with a fast-paced crescendo, “Cry Yourself Dry” means you just closed the bar, and “Freeport Boulevard” is where the action’s at for a hot night. Or better yet, just follow the kid on tour at
Buddy Guy Takes The Stage For His Acoustic Set
You know about Johnny B. Goode. Now meet his cousin-or better yet, leave town if you love your woman, ’cause Buddy Up-to-No-Goode. Buddy, the The Old Goat/Sly Fox was out tonight, howling and crying the Blues. The trick is that it’s his mating call-not a death knell-and it worked like lightnin’-all the fine ladies lit up for him. And the men were cheering him on! Go, Buddy, do your mojo smoke-even if she loves you for 60 minutes tonight, I get to take her home (I hope). But those guys are gonna be praying and paying the Blues because the Old Goat/Sly Fox just might be top dog in her mind when the passion is rising.
Go ‘way from my door, Buddy No-Goode; I love my woman as she is, and all that weeping and sighing is pitiful. It’s pitiful ’cause you do it in ways she likes and I can’t-don’t show me up no more. Those young turks calling out “Viagra!” and “Levitra!”; those aren’t song titles that Buddy needs to hear. He has his own wavelength and it’s like a bee going for the honey. Hey, what did I just say?…not fair, Buddy, and stop sharpening those antlers. Ramble on down near some other man’s pasture and leave my flock alone. You’ll find your does in another fellow’s woods, I’m sure of that.
So Buddy Guy has gone acoustic-a big gorgeous Gibson–but no matter, ’cause his idea of being unplugged ain’t gonna quite match your qualifications with your lady-and that’s your loss, Jack, if she gets to feeling Buddy’s hum. Fluid restrained shivers and skitters run off his fingers, and he’s “Done Got Old” with a throbbing pace that reminded me of John Lee Hooker‘s “My Dreams.” Woe, woe, but what you don’t know is that the sap runs strong in that old oak; don’t let your woman climb in his branches! And he yowls like a black cat moan. Get ‘way I say, Buddy! Leave me in peace and stay back from my fence. What do you say to a man who wails, “I had one leg in the East and another in the West; I was in the middle, tryin’ to do my best!“ Mr. Hoochie Coochie Man, be gone, I’m begging you.
No, no, this is like giving a pyromaniac a box of matches as a present and the audience is caught in his trap. Young fools, the Sly Fox is after your women; stop cheering him on like that! Gonna be dues to pay, and you’re not watching the merchandise! And Buddy knows what’s hot and worth shopping for, too. He has his Buddy-Bag of Blues tricks: the Masters are calling his name from Heaven. I heard ‘em as clear as rolling thunder; Muddy, John Lee, Lightning Hopkins, Marvin Gaye (“Ain’t That Peculiar”), Jimi, Stevie Ray, there’s even a lecture on the discography of the European scene in the late ’50s when Jazz was synonymous with Blues and a performer had to hold his chops in both styles. Yes sir, this is the time of the old Lion; hear him roar. Just keep clear with that lioness, or you may not be holding your cub. Buddy may be perched up on that stool without an electric guitar, but he’s still got plenty of voltage.
And when “Dotty” comes out, here he comes, one hand tapping out lead lines as neatly as anyone else uses two-that’s because the other has a drumstick for a slide. It’s too late, Jim, Buddy’s out with that cordless guitar and off the stage…and you know he’s coming into the audience, so give her up with a proper presentation, he’s been looking at her grinding all this time. That acoustic magic was just to get you hypnotized, sucker. So here’s what I recommend: Definitely see him when he’s in town; the man is driven by compulsions and needs that demand resolution. Need a date? Go by a retirement home and find a nice lady who would like to feel young again. And let the acoustic Blues drive her wild. Consider it a righteous thing and don’t worry about all those fine legs you know are in town-you want them to stay away. Buddy will get them by himself, don’t worry. Ever see how they find truffles? You ought to see how music does the same thing, Buddy Goat-Guy style. I’m sufferin’ for it. And he’s laying out just fine with the Blues.
By Mitch Lopate
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