Billy F. Gibbons

Big Bad Blues

(Snakefarm Records)

When recently having the pleasure of reviewing a box set of the second five Z Z Top albums, I was reminded of their organic assimilation of the finest elements of The Blues. The band is able to approach rock and blues music from any direction and pull it off, such is their musical skill and ability to invent but stay melodic.

Now, guitar ace Billy F. Gibbons returns with a blues-soaked collection of songs, some well-known, some less so, some originals. Safe to say that some of you good people who got into the first clutch of ZZ Top album releases may well like what is happening here. This is no airbrushed neat and tidy blooze outing, it’s a bumpy ride through a soundscape reeking of Jack Daniels and keroscene. And as such, strangely refreshing…

Opening cut Missin’ The Kissin; gives that reverbed boogie sound we know and love, with muscular drumming and rounded emphatic bass. Gibbons knows exactly how this stuff ought to sound, fuzz and delay to the fore and @ 1:30 a harp run that sounds exactly right. On to My Baby She Rocks with the harp – some of it’s Billy and some James Harman – is rocking away and Billy hitting a Jimmy Reed rolling beat. Mental images of shapely females dancing wildly in Southern clubs just cannot be resisted! The guitar lines are unhurried and sharp, the backbeat always there. You could hardly sound more jukebox…Second Line is a lively chug and addictive as hell..would certainly suit any ZZT release. One of my favourites on this set and the guitar is drenched with T-Bone Walker licks, albeit with that gritty lower register smoking away.

Of course it’s Muddy Waters that the song Standing Around Crying brings to mind – and for me, Johnny Winter maybe. Here, Billy whacks on the reverb and picks up a slide and sings it throaty and straight. I think the drummer has heard Willie Big Eyes Smith ! Let The Let Hand Know is another Reed-style moment, the beat loud and steady and the vocal heartfelt and relaxed, a great listen. Bring It To Jerome brings back memories of Bo Diddley ep’s on the red and yellow Pye label , Gibbons giving a pronounced sinister bite as the rusty guitars grind away over the trilling harp. That’s What She Said rocks like a bitch, a weighty lope making this my favourite cut.

Mo’ Slower Blues adds piano to the grimy ensemble, to great effect. Next up is Hollywood 151 a sprightly nod to Elmore, surely? The old traditional Rollin’ & Tumblin’ has been done by all and sundry. The best I ever heard was by Captain Beefheart with the Strictly Personal band, back in the day. Gibbons tackles the tune at breakneck Winter speed, that pounding group sound doing the number justice. Closing tune is Crackin’ Up a lovely rhumba with guitars on amp tremelo setting and a Coasters approach to a Bo song. It’s one of those records where not one lick or tone couldn’t have been heard in the Sixties..but that’s no crime, is it?

Let it roll, Mr Gibbons – we dig what’s going down…

Pete Sargeant


(Thanks to the team at Snakefarm Records for help with this review)

Billy F. Gibbons Live Photo Credit: John Bull/Rockrpix 

You can read our previous interview with Mr Gibbons here:

You can find all of our ZZ Top articles here:

You can watch the official lyric video for 'Standing Around Crying' in this article. 

Billy F.Gibbons new solo album 'Big Bad Blues' is out now on Snakefarm Records.

For more information visit his official website here: