Back in 1968, hot on the heels of his pop success with “Pictures of Matchstick Men” by a British group named Status Quo, Marshall Chess got the nifty idea of updating two celebrated blues figures on the Chess roster by immersing them in the hip(pie) new sound of the day. The resulting albums were Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud and a Howlin’ Wolf LP with this unwieldy title: This Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album. He Doesn’t Like It. He Didn’t Like His First Electric Guitar Either. Both albums were summarily dismissed as dog shit by critics while promptly selling in unprecedented numbers. I mention this bit of dubious blues history because a similar kind of recasting was recently done with former Chess recording artist Buddy Guy on Sweet Tea (Silvertone 01241-41751-2; 54:24). The difference here is that the producer, one Dennis Herring (Sweet Tea is the name of his recording studio in Oxford, Miss.), has a much purer vision of how to organically incorporate Buddy into the updated mix than Marshall Chess did with his Muddy and Wolf experiments. By surrounding Guy’s patented raw appeal with an even rawer sounding backup band on a set of crude, hypnotic one-chord vamps fueled by fuzz-heavy bass lines and brutal backbeats, producer Herring has connected with the new alternative blues crowd-the same young thrash mavens who recently packed the Fat Possum Blues Caravan shows on the JVC Jazz Festival circuit-while also concocting the roughest, toughest, scariest Buddy Guy album ever.
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