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Monday, Nov. 10, 2008

Buddy Guy

Skin Deep (Silvertone/Zomba)

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Billed as Buddy Guy's first album of all-original material (with producer/percussionist Tom Hambridge sharing co-writing credits), Skin Deep throttles along like most of the guitarist's later-period work-pristine production backing barbed-wire jags of distorted riffs, and boastful jabs ("Show Me the Money") punctuating meditative 12-bar shuffles.

Per custom on such affairs, there are the usual suspects serving as guest artists: Derek Trucks and Eric Clapton take their turns, each with a general melodiousness that paints Guy's own spastic, gnarled tone in stark contrast. There's also an unusual, Living Colour-esque social commentary going on with the black/white album cover and the cringe-worthy, statement-striving title track. It's a theme that is, thankfully, underdeveloped.

As always, Guy is at his best when allowing the slow burners ("Lyin' Like A Dog") to simmer and build tension before he unleashes that coiled-up frenzy of thorny, rapid-fire fretwork that has become his trademark. He often molds emotiveness so closely to the strings that it's hard to tell where the man ends and the guitar begins. "Let me explain," he says, prefacing a serrated solo. It's the rare self-assuredness of a consummate bluesman, an artist whose name is properly synonymous with the genre-Chicago blues-that he has rightfully come to represent.