ZZ TOP Guitarist / Vocalist BILLY GIBBONS Talks New Solo Album - "You Can't Lose With The Blues"
November 3, 2018, 2 months ago
Concord Records released The Big Bad Blues, ZZ Top legend Billy F Gibbons’ second-ever solo release, on September 21st. This is the follow-up to his 2015 Afro-Cuban-flavoured solo album, Perfectamundo. Mick Burgess at Metal Express Radio recently caught up with Gibbons to discuss his solo career and the new album, as well as his Blues influences. An excerpt is available below.
Q: Why did you decide to do another solo album rather than a ZZ Top studio album?
Gibbons: "John Burk at Concord Records cornered me in their parking lot late one night and made the case for a follow up to Perfectamundo, proposing a Blues-skewed set. That was it! At the same time, a new ZZ Top album continued percolating righteously. A two-for-two punch for sure!"
Q: Whereas Perfectamundo saw you heading into new territory with its Afro-Cuban vibe, The Big Bad Blues is you very much on home turf. Did you always intend to return to your roots with your next record or did it just turn out this way naturally?
Gibboms: "There’s rarely been a long-range plan of what we do however, as is often said, 'You can’t lose with the Blues' — or is it 'Blues or lose?' At any rate, the Blues is definitely biorhythmically-based. We’re doing what comes naturally with this one."
Q: You`ve been cited by many guitarists as a major influence on them. Who were those guitarists that originally influenced you?
Gibboms: "Gotta start at the beginning: the first recording session I ever attended as a bystander took place when I was 6 or 7 years old. My Dad was a musician and used his connections to get to into a session at ACA Recording in Houston with none other than B.B. King! How’s that for a start? Growing up in Houston, we got exposure to Lightnin’ Hopkins whose free form breakdowns were mind altering. And of course, getting to share the stage with Jimi Hendrix was the be all and end all. He was very giving of his time and talent and was more than happy to share some of his techniques which have taken the better part of a lifetime to realize in some meaningful way.
Read the complete interview here.
Watch a lyric video for the Muddy Waters cover "Standing Around Crying" below.
The Big Bad Blues, as the title suggests, focuses on Gibbons’ lifelong love of the blues and rock & roll, showcasing the blues-influenced vocals and guitar licks that have together served as the foundation for his numerous hits over the past five decades. The album features 11 tracks balancing some classic covers like "Rollin’ and Tumblin’" and "Standing Around Crying", along with some of Billy’s signature new blues originals.
“We successfully made our way through those uncharted waters with the Cubano flavor of Perfectamundo and completed the journey,” says Gibbons in distinguishing The Big Bad Blues from its predecessor. “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, of course, has long been one of the most important and influential artists to emerge from the blues traditions, carrying it forward in a career honoured by his 2004 induction, with ZZ Top, into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. As he notes, he was blues-influenced “right from the beginning - and it’s never let up.”
“There’s something very primordial within the art form,” he says. “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 lineup of usual suspects, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy, all three Kings [B.B., Albert and Freddie]. The lengthy list of champions are forever carved in stone.”
After the success of Perfectamundo, Concord Records president, John Burk, expressed his intent on following up with another artistic offering with a more familiar, bluesy kind of content. “Billy has an incredibly deep knowledge of the great blues tradition and has carried that tradition forward in his music throughout his incredible career. Therefore, it seemed natural to do a project that centered on his musical roots, and the music that so inspired him from the very beginning.”
Gibbons remarked, “We were delighted to follow suit: It’s steeped in the tradition of ‘BFG meets blues giants’ with an adventurous expression to keep it fresh.”
BFG and Burk met in an underground parking garage of a favourite Hollywood bistro from the comforts of JB’s top-down ride, playing some tracks, LOUD, with the music bouncing off the walls beneath a couple floors of raw concrete. Gibbons got the nod. He and his “greasy” gang of unbridled players were delivering the goods.
“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 88’s,” says Gibbons, adding, “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 the harmonica chops with James Harman who has appeared over the years doin’ that Mississippi-sounding thing. “James is the fastidiously fierce follower of the real deal when it comes to blowing’ the harp.
“As for the album content, check it out… Hey now!
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” he says. “It’s no secret there are several favorites from the way-back starting with not one, but two, from the Bo Diddley catalog [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 lineup.”
As for favourites, Gibbons 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.
“Other tracks on The Big Bad Blues are easy pickin’, sayin’ it all. It’s a street affair.”
Pre-order The Big Bad Blues here.
Tracklisting (all songs by Billy F Gibbons except where noted):
"Missin’ Yo’ Kissin’" (Gilly Stillwater)
"My Baby She Rocks"
"Standing Around Crying" (Muddy Waters)
"Let The Left Hand Know…"
"Bring It To Jerome" (Jerome Green)
"That’s What She Said"
"Mo’ Slower Blues"
"Rollin’ And Tumblin’" (Muddy Waters)
"Crackin’ Up" (Bo Diddley)
"Standing Around Crying" lyric video:
"Missin’ Yo’ Kissin’" lyric video:
"Rollin’ And Tumblin’" lyric video:
Gibbons has announced an October/November North American tour in support of his sophomore solo album. Billy and his band, consisting of drummer Matt Sorum (Guns ‘N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), left handed guitarist Austin Hanks, and Elwood Francis, DJ and harmonica player, will be hitting the road from NYC to California on the two dozen date tour that includes a multi-night stand at New York’s Iridium and culminates at the fabled Troubadour in West Hollywood.
Tour dates are listed below:
3 - Pompano Beach, FL - Pompano Beach Amphitheatre
5 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
6 - Lake Buena Vista, FL - House of Blues – Orlando
7 - Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
9 - Houston, TX - Revention Music Center
10 - Fort Worth, TX - Billy Bob’s Texas
11 - San Antonio, TX - Aztec Theater
15 - Solana Beach, CA - Belly Up Tavern
16 - Las Vegas, NV - Brooklyn Bowl
18 - West Hollywood, CA - Troubadour