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ZZ Top - La Futura

American Recordings/SME Records

10 tracks - 39:28

ZZ Top in a blues publication? Are there some of you out there throwing up your hands in horror? If so, let me start with my two-penny worth.

Back in 1994 the band released an album called ‘One Foot In The Blues’, a compilation of 17 blues based tracks taken from their earlier albums. The album rose to number 10 in the Billboard blues chart. There were any number of other tracks the band could have chosen including, but not limited to, a cover of Robert Johnson’s Dust My Broom on Degüello, the sixth album. Perhaps the most visible sign of their commitment to the blues was when they acquired a piece of wood from the shack used by McKinley Morganfield and his family which was located near Clarksdale, MS and had it made into a guitar. Dubbed the "Muddywood," the band sent it out on tour to raise money for the Delta Blues Museum.

After Degüello, El Loco, and Eliminator followed, and they also had blues content but around that time, arena performances, spinning guitars and the use of scientific/technical data (like the fact that for Eliminator, most of the tracks are at 120 beats per minute, declared by research to be the most effective/popular beat in the early 1980s) came to the fore. It was, I suspect that use of technology, of synthesizer sounds and the artistic flare of the performances, that turned some of the dyed-in-the-wool - blues-is-only-from-the-delta folks into sneering ‘that’s rock, not blues’ people. IMHO, ZZ Top was\is, the trail blazing, first blues-rock band as opposed to blues-pop bands (like the Stones). Others have followed, often without even one foot on the field of play. Unfortunately after Degüello the band become hooked on technology and half turned away from blues, although never completely shunning the genre.

For unidentified reasons, Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, have not issued a new studio album for nine years. There was a four track EP, Texicali, that was issued in 2012 consisting of four of the tracks now on this full length CD. Just a kind of stop gap I guess. But the wait has been worth it.

In short this CD is back to the standard of all those up to and including Degüello. It has all that raw, roadhouse blues feel that the earlier albums had and comes but with the highest of production values, courtesy of producer Rick Rubin. Blues grooves abound here not least in Heartache In Blue which features some outstanding harp work by Alabama Hall of Famer, nineteen time WC Handy Award nominee, James Harman.

Check out , ‘I Gotsta Get Paid,’ a vibrant and jangling cover of a rap song and the excellent, ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose You’. The slight downside is that in some songs Billy Gibbons’ voice seems to be getting a bit roughed up, but that aside the work by his fellow musicians is as ever outstanding. One could take some of the bass lines played by Dusty and turn them into melodies. As expected, Gibbons’ guitar work is cutting and concise, but with an edge of fuzz that makes it all sound like the little old band from Texas has come home. ZZ Top's support and link to the blues remains as rock solid as the music they play.

PS: if you go to you will find the Rev Billy G, giving a guitar lesson using licks from Jimmy Reed and others as the base for his instruction. I rest my case. WARNING: There’s a fuzz box in the setup!

Reviewer Ian McKenzie is English and is the editor of Blues In The South, [] a monthly blues information publication. He is the producer/ host of two blues radio shows Blues Before Midnight on KCOR (Kansas City Online Radio: Fridays 12noon Central; and Wednesday's Even Worse on Phonic FM ( alternate Wednesdays at 6pm UK time (12 noon Central.


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