When someone mentions the blues, often the images that come to mind are B. B. King cradling his guitar Lucille and several thousand songs that all sound like "Green Onions."
It's true that the blues do not allow for much musical maneuverability since they are anchored to a basic chord progression. But what they do allow for is individuality expressed through vocal and instrumental phrasing, tempo, dynamics and personal styles.
The Buddy Guy/Junior Wells Blues Band opened their three-night stint at the Cellar Door last night with infinite variations on the same theme. The band, at first sans Guy and Wells, began with a faithful rendition of John Handy's "Hard Work," more a disco tune than a blues number, and then shouted, "Do you feel all right?"!
Just as the blues purists were about to panic, out stepped guitarist Buddy Guy, and he immediately calmed all fears. Guy's six-string moaned, shrieked and seduced and though he is not a particularly strong singer, he got his message across.
Wells joined the gang a few selections later sounding like the Chicago-bred blues man that he is. It was suddenly easy to hear where artists like Wilson Pickett picked up some of their vocal moves.
Other than an amplifier that insisted on humming throughout the performance and a scarcity of Wells' harp playing, the show proved a welcome sound for blues-oriented ears.