I had high expectations for Billy Gibbons’ new solo record, The Big Bad Blues (Concord Records), and the man with the Texas goatee did not disappoint. The ZZ Top frontman’s new collection of original songs and classic blues covers gets deep down in your soul and in your bones and will have you shaking your rump. This album represents a bridge between roots music and rock ’n’ roll, and will be savored by both fans of ZZ Top as well as blues aficionados.
Blues connaisseurs will want to seek out this album for the marvelous interpretations of Muddy Waters (“Standing Around Crying,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”), Bo Diddley (“Crackin’ Up”), and Jerome Green (“Bring It To Jerome”). Speaking of “Bring It To Jerome,” the song opens with absolutely scorching electric harmonica, played by either Gibbons or James Harman, who provided additional harp on the record. Gibbons has been thrilling audiences with his mastery of the electric guitar for decades, and continues to prove just how damn good he is here. But on this album, Gibbons gets to show off some impressive harp skills here that you wouldn’t know he has from his body of work with ZZ Top.
It’s tempting to compare The Big Bad Blues to another piece of blues revivalism released this year, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s From Downey to Lubbock. [For my review of that album click one of these bolded words here.] Both albums feature a mix of classic blues tracks and original songs, but they are very different in terms of style and influences. Alvin and Gilmore take a country-folk approach to the blues, one with heavy acoustic elements, while Gibbons’s is an electric, rock-ified. Gibbons draws from Waters, Diddley, and Green; Alvin and Gilmore played songs from the Memphis Jug Band, Brownie McGhee, and Lightning Hopkins. Both are excellent albums, both feature guitar work, and both are well worth your time and money. Get your copy here: https://billygibbons.com/