ZZ Top guitar giant Billy Gibbons will release his second solo album The Big Bad Blues on Concord Records on 21 September. It’s the follow-up to his much-admired Afro-Cuban inspired album of 2015, Perfectamundo.
The focus of the new set is the lifetime love of blues and rock ‘n’ roll that has fuelled Gibbons’ entire career. Its 11 tracks showcase a combination of his new blues originals and interpretations of such numbers as ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’’ and ‘Standing Around Crying.’
“We successfully made our way through those uncharted waters with the Cubano flavour of Perfectamundo and completed the journey,” says Gibbons, explaining how the new project differs from the last. “The shift back to the blues is a natural. It’s something which our followers can enjoy with the satisfaction of experiencing the roots tradition and, at the same time, feeling the richness of stretching the art form.”
Gibbons, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with ZZ Top, is proud to acknowledge the blues roots that helped make him one of the most noted artists to come from that tradition over the past several decades. The blues influenced him “right from the beginning,” he says, “and it’s never let up. There’s something very primordial within the art form. Nobody gets away from the infectious allure of those straight-ahead licks.”
Moving on to cite specific blues heroes, Gibbons adds: “I suspect Jimmy Reed did me in early on. The inventiveness of that high and lonesome sound remains solid and stridently strong to this day. We could go on to mention the line-up of usual suspects, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy [Waters], all three Kings [B.B., Albert and Freddie]. The lengthy list of champions are forever carved in stone.”
“Billy has an incredibly deep knowledge of the great blues tradition and has carried that tradition forward in his music throughout his incredible career,” says Concord Records president John Burk. “Therefore, it seemed natural to do a project that centred on his musical roots, and the music that so inspired him from the very beginning.”
Of the players on The Big Bad Blues, Gibbons notes: “From deep in the heart of Texas, our Hammond organ specialist, Mr. Mike Flanigin, stepped forward and accepted the invitation to step from the B3 bench to take on the task of pounding the ivory 88s. Great piano stuff from Mike ‘The Drifter’ Flanigin. Master of the Fender Bass-guitar, Joe Hardy lent his low-down sound with his fearless funkiness, SO fine!
“Also, in the mash-up mix, the man-with-the-backbeat-plan, Greg Morrow. G keeps the skins alive and kickin’. And while we’re on that backbeat thang…Matt Sorum steps forward with his super-syncopation, thrashing the skins like no buddies business. Alabama–come-California soulster Austin Hanks roughs up the riffs with his left-handed six-string electric. Have mercy!”
Gibbons himself shares harmonica duties with James Harman. “James is the fastidiously fierce follower of the real deal when it comes to blowing’ the harp,” he says. “As for the album content, check it out…hey now! Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
“It’s no secret there are several favorites from the way-back starting with not one, but two, from the Bo Diddley catalogue [‘Bring It to Jerome,’ ‘Crackin’ Up’]. We dusted off an old Gretsch Duo-Jet guitar, which put it squarely with that infamous Bo Diddley sound. Once covered, we made way into another side—a much earlier number from Muddy Waters, ‘Standing Around Crying.’ The ragged edges with the meanness of James’ bad self on harp seemed to fit the bill to enter the line-up.” Gibbons will announce tour dates shortly.
The Big Bad Blues is released on 21 September and can be bought here.