As a roots-rocking founding member of The Beat Farmers, Buddy Blue brings an idiosyncratic, rockabilly vision to his jazz. Sordid Lives is a queer mix of Mose Allison and Brian Setzer. At times it can be fun. At others, well, it’s quite the opposite. Blue’s guitar playing is quite impeccable — like Wes Montgomery gone redneck. The man can really swing on cuts like “Monk Side Story,” and he’s got the groove down in the spectacular “Horn Rims.” You can almost envision it on today’s dancefloor, actually.
And I, personally, wish that Bud would’ve stuck more to the instrumental side of his alt-jazz dream. As I said, he’s an impeccable guitarist, and the gritty rock guitar works beautifully with the music. The end result is smooth with just enough frayed edges to make the music visceral. However, his voice is a bit too thin to clear the high hurdle that the jazz standard has brought us in the past century. Sometimes, he perfectly understands his limits (on songs like “Upsettin’ Me” and “Conversation with the Bottle”) and uses his voice to great effect like an Allison or Chet Baker. But other times his voice just falls flat. He seems to be trying his damnedest to emulate the blues too hard — as though his larynx simply lacks the depth. It makes him sound a bit cheesy on “Wretch’s Lament” — like the University of Utah’s glee club mourning the death of Marcus Garvey (the subject of the song). And, when doing “St. James Infirmary” (he really should’ve taken some pointers from Blue Mitchell on this one), he lacks the growl, the passion, the despair of this pathos-ridden classic to effectively pull it off.
Buddy Blue: http://www.buddyblue.com/