Personnel: Roy Buchanan (vocals, guitar); Otis Clay, Gloria Hardiman (vocals); Criss Johnson (guitar); Steele "Sonny" Seals (tenor saxophone); Bill Heid (keyboards); Larry Exum (bass); Morris Jennings (drums).
Recorded at Steelerville Studios, Chicago, Illinois.
WHEN A GUITAR PLAYS THE BLUES is one of Roy Buchanan's finest studio dates. A hand picked group of Chicago blues musicians--including Gloria Hardiman, who lends her gospel-charged soprano to "Why Don't You Want Me?," and the irrepressible Otis Clay, who tears it up on a version of O.V. Wright's "A Nickel And A Nail"--keep things at a high simmer. As always though, it is Buchanan's virtuosity that burns most brightly. While the fare here is primarily traditional hard-driving blues, the range of Buchanan's versatility and grab bag of effects (including double-string bends, over-the-top harmonics, snarls, scratches, and delicate, melodic underplaying) help transcend the genre.
One of Buch's most distinguishing characteristics is his manipulation of tonality and volume-knob dynamics (his approach sometimes bear a resemblance to the complex, evocative shadings of avant-jazzster Bill Frisell), a quality particularly notable on the title cut, which opens with a quote from a Bach fugue. The full range of his instrumental power is on display on the pounding "Short Fuse," the Elmore James-influenced "Hawaiian Punch" and the epic "Sneaking Godzilla Through The Alley." In all, a superior set.