As a dedicated fan of Chicago blues (and the drunker the better), I acknowledge the criticism of many of my blues-loving friends that B.B. King tends to be too glitzy, too overproduced, too Hollywood and Vegas to capture the real essence of the Chicago style. I don’t even really disagree with them.
But my God, that man can play guitar.
Here he is in 2001, live at Montreaux, 76 years old and bending a note or two on his signature tune and biggest hit, “The Thrill is Gone.”
When it comes to pure dirty blues enjoyment, I’ll always love Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, and many others more than B.B., because of the fact that his work is often seamlessly produced and doesn’t have the edge that some others have. But I will always respect the hell out of him as a showman and particularly as an instrumentalist — not because he is so technically proficient, but because he could so beautifully wring the soul out of Lucille. It’s like watching a prayer.
BB in 2009: