When two greats of the blues join forces, we naturally anticipate something unforgettable, something beyond magical. Sadly this isn’t always the case, particularly when a battle for supremacy emerges and neither musician ends up complementing the other. On the other hand, sometimes these collaborations can go beyond even our wildest expectations – seemingly as if two guitars or musicians have merged into one like they have a telepathic connection.
Here are Blues Rock Review’s top 10 blues collaborations.
10. “What You Gonna Do About Me” – Buddy Guy & Beth Hart
The smoky croon of Hart fuels this rousing duet as Guy lets rip on his trademark polka-dot-finished Strat. This is the real deal – a track steeped in dynamite chemistry and oozing in attitude. When a blues guitar icon teams up with of the most formidable singers on the contemporary blues scene, you expect a spellbinding reaction. Thankfully, this doesn’t disappoint.
9. “I’m Ready” – Muddy Waters & Rory Gallagher
The undisputed master of Chicago Blues teamed up with the unassuming but tenacious Irish bluesman for the recording of this enduring blues standard. Waters is typically gutsy and captivatingly expressive, while the blow-the-doors-off guitar of Gallagher alongside the groovy harmonica work is simply sensational.
8. “Riding With The King” – B.B. King & Eric Clapton
The playful and rollicking title track from this collaborative Grammy Award winning album is the sound of blues royalty driving down the road with its roof down and hair blowing in the wind. Bringing a fresh energetic swagger to this take on John Hiatt’s 1983 blues-rocker, Clapton and King’s joyous interplay and twin lead vocals harmonise satisfyingly together.
7. “Blues At Sunrise” – Albert King & SRV
SRV was evidently influenced by ‘The Velvet Bulldozer’, especially on his first two records which are notable for some trademark King licks. “Blues at Sunrise” is a 15-minute highlight from their 1983 jam session which sees the two men go toe-to-toe with their monster tones and unique ways of squeezing bends out of a guitar.
Even though Vaughan does eventually unleashes his inner Jimi (at the request of King), what is perhaps most remarkable is how easily these two six-string powerhouses deliver some of the most deliciously restrained playing of their careers while the other solos. This remains an essential release for anyone even mildly interested in the blues.
6. “Sugar Sweet” – Freddie King & Eric Clapton
Completing our collection of the ‘Three Kings of the Blues Guitar’, Clapton revels exchanging heavy-handed notes with one of his idols as Freddie King’s gritty and dirty tone bring the bite and intensity of his famed blues attack to this funky duet. Beyond the guitar playing, it also reveals King to be a passionate and most gifted blues singer.
5. “Midnight Train” – Buddy Guy & Jonny Lang
A devastating collision of old and new as the master bluesman joins forces with a then 17-year-old Jonny Lang who had to shot to fame with his big-label debut Lie To Me a year earlier.
Sharing vocal duties as well as six-string honours, Guy’s blistering style and Lang’s phenomenal raw talent shine on this chugging all-star cast runaway number which also features SRV keyboardist Reese Wynans.
4. “Going Down” – SRV & Jeff Beck
Two guitar virtuosos in their own right. Many top-notch guitarists have failed to do justice to this Freddie King masterpiece, but the ability of Beck and SRV to improvise and yet still keep the song intact is testament to their genius.
Grace, fluidity, tempo, fire, gusto and pure elation – this is simply two of the greatest at the top of their game jamming and having the time of their lives. What’s not to love?
3. “We’re All In This Together” – Walter Trout & Joe Bonamassa
A symbol of unity for the modern blues-rock scene, the shimmering title-track of Trout’s 2016 release is an electrifying road trip driven by blazing fretwork and spontaneity. Recorded live, this track is unbelievably the first practice run with Bonamassa and Trout stood three feet away from each other, staring directly into each other’s faces and evidently pushing each other to greater heights.
After just under eight minutes of tearing it up and cooking up a guitar storm, Trout knew they had something special. “We all just looked at each other and started laughing” and I said: “wow, I think we just nailed it!”
2. “The Healer” – John Lee Hooker & Carlos Santana
If you ever doubted the healing power of the blues, then look no further. Few would have thought Santana’s finest hour would come on a John Lee Hooker record, but he wields his samba magic and Latin-tinged remedy throughout the title track of Hooker’s 1989 record in an attempt to ‘cure’ the late great bluesman.
The perfect accompaniment to Hooker’s emotive preacher chants of love, pain and hope, this recording was carried out in one take. As Hooker himself admitted, “It could never be better. That was the one.”
1. “The Thrill Is Gone” – B.B. King & Gary Moore
One of the most incredible on-stage blues performances you are ever likely to see. Two guitars become one as these much-missed legends of the genre effortlessly trade licks in this one-of-a-kind rendition of the Roy Hawkins classic.
The piercing and passionate tone of “Greeny” combines seamlessly with the deeply-emotional playing of “Lucille” as the blues is taken to a higher place. We may never have the honour of seeing these two icons carry out such a guitar duel ever again, but the thrill when listening to this will never fade.