I was all ready to write about how I love B.B. King’s simple, relaxed, direct guitar style, and then I listened again to “Everyday I Have the Blues,” and I had to scrap that plan. His trademark clear tone is on display here, but this performance isn’t exactly un-flashy. It’s full of flash, and it’s fantastic.
Live at the Regal has been lauded as King’s masterwork in the 48 years since its release, and rightly so: this thing is awesome. Recorded in 1964 at the Regal Theater in Chicago, the album captures King in his prime. The man, with a horn section behind him, plays song after song without taking a moment to catch his breath. In its two-and-a-half minutes, “Everyday I Have the Blues” features those horns, King’s pleading and soulful voice, and That Guitar, accomplishing what would take some bands five or six minutes to accomplish: determination and anguish, energy and despair. “Nobody loves me, nobody seems to care,” sings King, but he sure sounds okay with it. I have a feeling he’ll be fine.
B.B. King’s guitar tone is probably my favorite of all the blues players. In the same way that the great Muddy Waters sounds like he’s playing from his gut, King sounds like he’s playing from his throat: there’s a voice-like quality to Lucille, and maybe that’s one reason we know her by first name. She always sounds like a person, singing away while the song chugs along behind her. She’s the star here, and B.B. King knows it.