George Thorogood speaks the language of movies.
That's not to say the veteran blues-rocker is fluent in the technical jargon of filmmaking; his approach is far too visceral for that. It's just that Thorogood is such an inveterate movie buff that it seems every thought that doesn't spark a musical association ignites a cinematic one.
Some actually do both, such as when Thorogood in an interview with me a few years ago discussed
how he chose material to record. The goal, he said, is always to find songs that offer a fresh take on the blues-roots formula.
"It's like watching the Woody Allen movies," Thorogood explained. "They're the same but they're not the same. That's what we go after. I don't want it to be exactly the same old thing, and that's not so easy to do, to stay within the frame of what you can do and be creative within that."
That's a challenge Thorogood has met head-on for the past 30 years. The guitarist brings his band, The Destroyers, to Saratoga on Sunday to open for Chicago blues giant Buddy Guy at the Mountain Winery.
The band is on the road these days in support of its latest release, “Icon,” an 11-track career retrospective featuring many of Thorogood’s best known tracks (“Bad to the Bone,” “I Drink Alone”) as well as a new take on the blues standard “Do the Do.” Listeners throughout can hear the blend of gritty and witty that lies at the heart of Thorogood’s sound.
That mix was there from the guitarist’s first success, a rocking but good humored 1978 take on Hank Williams' "Move It On Over." In the decade that followed, Thorogood and the Destroyers emerged as FM radio staples with "Night Time," "Who Do You Love?" "I Drink Alone" and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer."
Humor certainly aided Thorogood's cause in 1983, when the title track from "Bad to the Bone" became an unexpected hit. Much of the credit rests with the song's video, a tongue-in-cheek poolroom scene featuring another Thorogood influence, Bo Diddley.
Given the genre he works in, Thorogood's moment in the MTV spotlight was never meant to last. The guitarist is a bluesman at heart, and performing live – he once played the 50 states in 50 days – is the main thrust of his career. That said, he doesn't spend as much time touring as he once did.
"It's not necessary now," Thorogood said. "We can pick and choose a little. I'm not 34
anymore. I have to go out there and really focus."
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