Seven Time Grammy Award Winner Buddy Guy + Ben Miller Band$68.50 - $102.50 Buy Tickets
At age 82, Buddy Guy is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound, and a living link to the city’s halcyon days of electric blues. Buddy Guy has received 6 GRAMMY® Awards, a 2015 Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY® Award, 34 Blues Music Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard Magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #23 in its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
Buddy Guy released his brand new studio album Born To Play Guitar on July 31, 2015 via Silvertone/RCA Records, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart. The follow-up to his 2013 first-ever double disc release, Rhythm & Blues, which also debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart, Born To Play Guitar was produced by GRAMMY®Award winning producer/songwriter and Buddy’s longtime collaborator Tom Hambridge. The release features guest appearances by Van Morrison, Joss Stone, Kim Wilson and Billy Gibbons.
Though Buddy Guy will forever be associated with Chicago, his story actually begins in Louisiana. One of five children, he was born in 1936 to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, located some 140 miles northwest of New Orleans. Buddy was just seven years old when he fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”—a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins.
In 1957, he took his guitar to Chicago, where he would permanently alter the direction of the instrument, first on numerous sessions for Chess Records playing alongside Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the rest of the label’s legendary roster, and then on recordings of his own. His incendiary style left its mark on guitarists from Jimmy Page to John Mayer. “He was for me what Elvis was probably like for other people,” said Eric Clapton at Guy’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2005. “My course was set, and he was my pilot.”
Seven years later, July 2012 proved to be one of Buddy Guy’s most remarkable years ever. He was awarded the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor for his lifetime contribution to American culture; earlier in the year, at a performance at the White House, he even persuaded President Obama to join him on a chorus of “Sweet Home Chicago.” Also in 2012, he published his long-awaited memoir, When I Left Home.
“I worry a lot about the legacy of Muddy, Wolf and all the guys who created this stuff,” he says. “I want people to remember them. It’s like the Ford car—Henry Ford invented the Ford car, and regardless how much technology they got on them now, you still have that little sign that says ‘Ford’ on the front.
“One of the last things Muddy Waters told me—when I found out how ill he was, I gave him a call and said, ‘I’m on my way to your house.’ And he said, ‘Don’t come out here, I’m doing all right. Just keep the damn blues alive.’ They all told me that if they left here before I did, then everything was going to be on my shoulders. So as long as I’m here, I’m going to do whatever I can to keep it alive.”
“I like the idea of saying something very complicated in a very simple way,” Ben Miller states. “That’s what we strive for musically, and what I strive for lyrically—to get directly to the point.”
Getting to the point is something that the Ben Miller Band does consistently on Choke Cherry Tree, the Joplin, Missouri-bred combo’s third album and second New West release. The consistently compelling set offers 11 new examples of Miller’s deceptively unpretentious songcraft, beneath whose ramshackle exterior lurks sturdy, infectious melodies and resonant,emotionally insightful lyrics.
Miller’s band delivers such memorable new tunes as “Nothing Gets Me Down,” “Akira Kurosawa,” “Trapeze,” “Lighthouse” and “Mississippi Cure” with the sort of unpretentious enthusiasm that’s already won the group a devoted fan base that stretches from the band’s midwestern home turf to the U.K. and Europe, where they’ve toured to rave reviews.
Choke Cherry Tree introduces a retooled Ben Miller Band lineup, with Miller and fellow founding member Scott Leeper joined by new additions Rachel Ammons and Smilin’Bob Lewis. The pair’s multi-instrumental skills bring added authority to Miller’s rootsy new compositions, while maintaining the high energy level (complete with homemade instruments constructed from broken and discarded axes) that originally endeared the band to its fans. Elsewhere, Rachel Ammons’ expressive vocals lend depth to the haunting “Redwing Blackbird.”
Miller and company recorded Choke Cherry Tree with producer Chris Funk, a member of the Decemberists whose multi-instrumental abilities helped to expand the band’s sonic options, as did his interest in using such guest players as Jenny Conlee and Nate Query (also of The Decemberists), renowned saxophonist Ralph Carney (Tom Waits, Tin Huey), Dan Hunt of Neko Case’s band, Ural Thomas, Rev Shines of Lifesavas, and more. “Chris has a lot of musician friends,” Miller notes, “so if we needed an accordion player, he’d just call one.”