Legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy knows how to make his guitar talk, and he also knows how we present words is as important as the words themselves. His versions of the John Hiatt tune “Feels Like Rain” are proof of that.
It’s not often that a song I really like, written by one of my favorite artists, is remade by another musician and made better than the original. Guy’s version of this particular song may be one of them, if not the only one. There’s something about the lyrics and the tune for which Guy’s voice and his guitar seem perfectly suited.
Hiatt’s lyrics are themselves a wonder, with the imagery of quiet showers or hurricane downpours, wind and stars and clouds, serving as fine metaphors for different moods of a powerful love.
Despite the song’s age, I don’t think I’d ever heard Guy’s 1993 version, off of his Grammy-winning contemporary blues album of the same name. Maybe it was the gray weather or my state last Friday while I heard it during a workout, or maybe the backing vocals of Bonnie Raitt (another favorite), that made me want to learn more. I finally spent an hour this evening googling for his performances, and it was time well spent.
It’s clear Guy loves “Feels Like Rain” and particularly loves trying to get audiences to sing the three title words. Several performances, including this one with John Mayer and this one in Bern* in 2000, showcase those efforts. It’s fun to watch. And the version linked at the top of this post, during an Austin City Limits performance, shows him relating a story about his sister trying to get him to sing the words properly.
“Boy, you not goin’ nowhere,” she tells him. The rest of his story (“I had to go to my guitar and say something,”) and performance, including a broken string, are a thoroughly satisfying way to spend a few minutes in any weather.
* While the Youtube link calls it the Bluesfestival Bern, the only somewhat authoritative link I’ve been able to track down is for the Jazzfestival Bern.