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Buddy Guy
Skin Deep
Silvertone Records
Sounds like: A master at work

Short take: Guy gets deep

The last of his kind, Buddy Guy shows why he's considered a blues great on Skin Deep, featuring a star-studded list of guests (Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi) that in most other cases would be merely a marketing tool. However, seconds into the album's lead track "Best Damn Fool," it's quite obvious Guy isn't playing second fiddle to anyone with this wah-wah laden, blues-guitar-fired playing. Throughout the 12-song release, the Chicago bluesman gets moody ("Too Many Tears"), traditional ("Show Me the Money") and rocking ("That's My Home"). Something else that stands out: Guy's sound and style, especially on the title track, are very similar to his old friend Jimi Hendrix, making this a perfect album for classic rock fans. John Benson


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Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere
Nudge it Up a Notch
Stax / Release: July 29
Sounds like: Groovin' on the dock of the bay

Short take: C&C re-create an imperfect world

Booker T & the MG's guitarist Steve Cropper co-wrote Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay." Felix Cavaliere provided vocals, Hammond and songwriting for Young Rascals hits like "Good Lovin'," "Groovin'," "How Can I Be Sure" and "People Got to Be Free." Fast-forward four decades, and we find the two of them releasing a classic soul album with a songwriting assist from co-producer Jon Tiven (a former rock writer savvy enough to have championed Big Star when it was still around). The majority of the tracks, especially "One of Those Days," "Imperfect World" and the instrumental "Full Moon Tonight," sound both traditional and vital. Things do go astray when Cavaliere breaks out the synth for "Jamaica Delight" and (yikes) raps on "Make the Time Go Faster." Still, for fans of the artists and their repertoires, this album offers more than a few pleasures. Bill Forman


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Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis
Two Men with the Blues
Blue Note
Sounds like: Superstars hanging loose

Short take: A low-key summit

The best way to imagine this album is to envision Willie Nelson and harmonica player Mickey Raphael walking down Broadway in New York one rainy night, right around Columbus Circle, and bumping into Wynton Marsalis, who happens to be performing with his band in the Allen Room across the street. The trumpet player invites them to sit in and, once they get settled onstage, it naturally turns out Marsalis is recording a live album. Steering the set to the bluesy side, he encourages Nelson to dig deep into his bag of covers and originals. The lineup is loose and light, with everyone playing off the tops of their heads. Nelson, who can charm an angry Texas cop, sounds like the patron saint of music he is, while Marsalis, being from New Orleans, has the blues encoded in his DNA. Not historic, but still, this one's all kicks and no tricks. Bill Bentley

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