BILLY F GIBBONS - The Big Bad Blues (2018)
ZZ Top has never strayed far from the blues. Even in their slick, synthesizer-enhanced MTV “Gimme Me All Your Lovin’” days, the band always kept “one foot in the blues,” even naming an album that way. So it’s little wonder that Top’s iconic frontman/singer/guitarist Billy F. Gibbons would revert to that straight-ahead Chicago sound when given a chance to follow up his successful 2015 solo debut. It’s only surprising this set of covers and originals didn’t happen sooner. Perhaps the idea was sparked by the Rolling Stones, whose 2016 Blue & Lonesome found Mick, Keith & the boys also digging back to their roots with startling commercial and artistic success. Like them, Gibbons isn’t trying to reinvent the genre wheel here. Why should he? After all, Top’s first major hit “La Grange” was little more than an amped up John Lee Hooker-styled boogie retread. But even though there are no surprises in the straightforward approach to this purely American art form, Gibbons more than acquits himself. Between his instantly recognizable swamp-drenched guitar and raspy vocals that have always seemed as if he gargled with the grimy mud of the Mississippi delta, Gibbons dives head-first into covers from Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters (two each), and cranks out a bunch of originals with the passion and low-boil intensity that has kept his band relevant for nearly 50 years.
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