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ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons to release second solo LP, The Big Bad Blues

Billy Gibbons

Story by Jack Foley

BILLY F Gibbons, best known as the centrepiece and one third of ZZ Top, is set to release his second solo album in the shape of The Big Bad Blues on September 21, 2018, via Snakefarm Records.

Co-produced by Billy and Joe Hardy, and put to tape at Foam Box Recordings in the former’s hometown of Houston, it is just as the title suggests – a lovingly crafted collection fuelled by Billys’ lifelong love of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll, showcasing the unique vocals and guitar licks that have together informed his numerous hits over the past five decades.

The record features 11 tracks balancing classic covers, like Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and Standing Around Crying, with some of Billy’s signature new blues originals. All of the tracks were recorded by a stellar line-up of musicians including Hardy on bass, Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver/The Cult) and Nashville session great Greg Morrow on drums, and Austin stalwart Mike ‘The Drifter’ Flanigin on keyboards; blues harp (harmonica) duties are handled by James Harmon as well as Billy who, of course, is the album’s vocalist and guitar slinger nonpareil.

In distinguishing The Big Bad Blues from its predecessor, Billy commented: “We successfully made our way through those uncharted waters with the Cubano flavour of [debut solo album] Perfectamundo and completed the journey.

“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.”

Billy has long been one of the most important and influential artists to emerge from the blues tradition; a wellspring of what he likes to refer to as the ‘three Ts’: tone, taste and tenacity.

In 2004, he was inducted, along with ZZ Top, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but his deep love of the blues was there long before that, “right from the beginning – and it’s never let up.

“There’s something very primordial within the art form,” he continues. “Nobody gets away from the infectious allure of those straight-ahead licks!”

He notes it would take many hours just to scratch the surface surrounding this enduring love affair…

“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, all three Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie). The lengthy list of champions is forever carved in stone.”

Further commenting on what to expect from the LP, Billy adds: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…. It’s no secret there are several favourites from the way-back starting with not one, but two, from the Bo Diddley catalogue (Bring It to Jerome and 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.”

As for favourites, Billy notes, Missin’ Yo’ Kissin is a gift from Miz Gibbons. She knows what girls want and laid it out cold. And Second Line is a definite throwback to many good days and nights down New Orleans way.