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  • Billy Gibbons

    Posted November, 2016

    Photo by Levi PervinPhoto by Levi PervinRock and blues fans get their music from all over the world. One favored and revered band started almost fifty years ago in Houston, Texas. That band is ZZ Top who became known as the “little ol’ band from Texas.” They have been making huge, monster hits ever since their landmark album, “Tres Hombres,” and never looked back.

    I’ve never had the privilege of seeing the band perform. The only time I’ve ever seen them in person, in fact, was at Stevie Ray Vaughan’s funeral in 1990. Because the band is performing at Knoxville’s beautiful Tennessee Theatre, the opportunity presented itself to ask the band’s iconic Billy Gibbons a few questions.

    To say that I was thrilled would be an obvious understatement.

    Our brief exchange took place while Gibbons was in France. Flattered that he took the time to answer my questions, I made sure that they were short and sweet, starting with asking how many tours their current tour made for the band.

    “In total? The word “incalculable” springs to mind because the truth is it's a definite uncertainty when one tour ends and the next one begins. The best guess places it somewhere in four digits yet, again, that’s just a guess.”

    And how has touring changed for ZZ Top since the first tours?

    “We’ve graduated from a rented station-wagon, stuffed full of gear and band members to streamlined touring coaches which makes for a rolling home when we’re not at home. The streamlining is now way better keeping in touch with the outside world. During the outings in ZZ's early years, we were last to know our albums were playing on radio and were starting to hit hard. Now, it's all about onboard Wi-Fi, re-runs of black-and-white Perry Mason, and full-service kitchen preparations on wheels. Way back then, complaints were few as we were getting to groove with the folks getting into what we were puttin’ down. That groove continues to rock on and fortunately the pathways these days are straight ahead.”

    When asked what can fans expect from shows on this tour – especially during the Knoxville stop?

    “We’re coming to Knoxville fresh from a run of European tour dates so being back home always puts the band in a good frame of mind. We’re the last to know what we’re gonna do until we do it making each night something of a mystery what goes on up on deck, however it’s with a great deal of certainty that it’s gonna be loud and it’s gonna rock.”

    Shifting gears, I asked Billy what his take was on the music industry today.

    “It’s a fluid field everywhere. One could obsess about the vast changes that we’ve all witnessed, yet it's still the focus, first and foremost, to play it. Did I mention ‘loud’?”

    Since Gibbons has been in the rock and roll business for almost fifty years, I asked him what would he do to fix the music business if he were made Music Czar.

    zz top by ross halfinPhoto by Ross Halfin

    “It starts with good writing behind a good song. Delivering that certain something that satisfies. And, as a band of renegade misfits, we conspire to place importance to press on with the notion that motivates getting to do just that…creating that certain something that takes it a step 

    further.”

    With an over-abundance of music flooding the market in many different ways, I was curious who is commanding Mr. Gibbons’ attention, musically, these days.

    “We’ve remained close to Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age, of course, and are digging some up and coming bands including a punk outfit out of LA called Surprise Vacation and Lecherous Gaze from Oakland. Isaac Rother & The Phantoms are cool as is Leon Bridges, the hip young soul guy from Ft. Worth. We’re partial to Buddy Guy’s young protégé Quinn Sullivan.”

    Boomerocity has a lot of readers who are musicians so, for the gear heads out there, I asked Billy what is the “holy grail” of guitars is and did he own it.

    “You bet I do. It’s the infamous ’59 Les Paul Standard named Pearly Gates that’s been the cornerstone since ZZ Top’s existence. Nothing plays or sounds like 'er. She’s so singular that the Gibson company borrowed her back and did a proper reissue tribute. Talk about ‘fine . . .'”

    zz top billygibbons by levi pervin 16Photo by Levi PervinAs for what’s on the band’s radar in the foreseeable future, Billy responded:

    “Actually, ZZ Top's first full length live release set for release at the end of August is up and coming. It’s got all your favorites and, as a bonus, a version of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Tons” with our good buddy, Jeff Beck, joining in. Fifteen tracks, recorded in a variety of outposts around the globe as far reaching as Las Vegas to Paris, Chicago to São Paolo, LA to London, back to Berlin, down to Dallas, over to Houston, Memphis and Mississippi and, probably, some places I’ve left out.”

    We all hope that Billy and the band have many, many more years of playing and recording left in them. However, I ask this of many of the people I’ve had the privilege of interviewing: When you step off the tour bus of life and go to that great gig in the sky (to cop a line from Pink Floyd), how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be? I ran that question by Gibbons.

    “No plan to ‘step off’ for a long while however, it would be nice to think of ZZ Top as the band that rocked it with “tone, taste and tenacity.” Any and all association with the ongoing interpretation of the blues would be a bonus.”

  • Lance Lopez Live In NYC

         

    Lance Lopez Live in NYC
    Lance Lopez
    Label: Cleopatra Blues
    Release Date: February 3, 2016
    Review Date: February 28, 2016

    Unless you’re a hard core blues fan, there’s a better than even chance that you may not have heard of Lance Lopez. If so, you don’t know what you’ve been missing.

    A friend and a protégé, of sorts, of the late, great Johnny Winter, Lopez as been lighting up the blues scene across the country (but ‘specially in Texas) since he was fourteen years young.

    Lopez’s latest offering is actually one of two new discs that he’s put out (the other being the debut record of his super group, Supersonic Blues Machine. See our review of it on Boomerocity.). Live In NYC is Lance’s new live album that was never intended to be recorded. 

    Performing in NYC at B.B. King’s for the late Johnny Winter’s last birthday party, the gig was recorded, unbeknownst to Lance. A few months later, Winter’s wing man, Paul Nelson, called up Lopez to say that he was listening to some great music from that night and wanted to put it out as record. The result is “Lance Lopez Live In NYC”.

    Chock full raw, blues and energy, the disc show that Lance Lopez clearly has the Johnny Winter’s mantel upon his shoulders, heavy with the dust from the crossroads. 

    Yeah, it – and he – is that good.

    Lance Lopez Live In NYC is one of THE must-have blues albums of 2016.

     

     

  • West of Flushing, South of Frisco

         

    West of Flushing, South of Frisco
    Supersonic Blues Machine
    Label: Provogue
    Review Date: February 28, 2016

    It’s always a joyous occasion when Boomerocity receives a blues project to review. We had a double whammy when we received the debut release of the blues super group, Supersonic Blues Machine, entitled, West of Flushing, South of Frisco. The other whammy was the new live album by SBM’s guitarist, Lance Lopez. 

    In addition to Lopez, the band consists of Fabrizio Grossi (bass/producer/engineer/wordsmith), and Kenny Aronoff (drums). Grossi worked his artistry in his birthplace - Milan, Italy - before migrating to London, Canada, New York, and currently Los Angeles.  Aronoff (drums) has a resume that spans four decades and reads like a “Who’s Who” of roots rock legends, including John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, Eric Clapton, Jack White, Billy Gibbons, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, and Dr. John. 

    Texan Lance Lopez (guitar/vocals) accrued at least one lifetime of experience before he was out of high school while playing bars in Louisiana and Florida. College came in the form of tours with R&B legend Johnny Taylor and blues masters Lucky Peterson and Bobby Blue Bland. 

    Supersonic Blues Machine stems from Fabrizio Grossi’s desire to return to his roots. “The blues is what makes me tick. It is the main ingredient of any successful musical recipe,” he explains. “It is like pasta in Italian food. You can add all the ingredients you like and any sauce, but the pasta is the core of the dish. I’m the chef and blues is my pasta.” 

    Like a great recipe, Supersonic Blues Machine adds carefully chosen flavorings to its blues stock. “Blues is my passion but my favorite bands have always been eclectic, like the Beatles, Queen, Toto, and Earth, Wind and Fire,” Grossi continues. “I wanted to apply their lessons to Supersonic Blues Machine, and my band mates totally get that.” Aronoff calls it “a blast from the past aimed at the future.” Says Grossi, “You will feel B.B. King’s presence on stage even though we might be wearing space suits.” 

    Grossi found a magical connection with Kenny Aronoff when the two toured as the rhythm section of Toto guitarist Steve Lukather’s side Jam band “Goodfellas.” 

    The next step came when Lance Lopez contacted Grossi about working on the Texas guitar whiz’s new solo project. While they were recording, Grossi got a call from Billy Gibbons, whom he had met on a Los Angeles session. The ZZ Top guitarist had known Lopez as a young blues prodigy, and strongly suggested Grossi and Lopez join forces. It was the Reverend Billy G’s blessing that helped birth Supersonic Blues Machine, and a stronger imprimatur for a nascent blues-rock project would be hard to find. 

    The first tune recorded for the Supersonic Blues Machine project was “Running Whiskey,” written by Gibbons, Grossi, and Tal Wilkenfeld. It features Gibbons on guitar and vocals and helped forge the sound of this new blues-rock supergroup. “It had the twist on the blues that infuses all the other songs on the record,” says Grossi. 

    The guest guitarists on Supersonic Blues Machine’s debut West of Flushing, South of Frisco are not a random selection of famous names, but more like members of an extended family. “I have worked on projects with Warren Haynes [guest and co-writer on ‘Remedy’], and when he tours anywhere near Dallas, he will always have Lance sit in,” Grossi explains. Lopez and Chris Duarte (“That’s My Way”) have been friends for years, and the SBM guitarist grew up with guest Eric Gales (“Nightmares and Dreams”). Walter Trout (“Can’t Take It No More”) is yet another member of this blues fraternity who, despite battling health issues, was anxious to contribute to the project. Finally, Grossi describes Robben Ford (“Let’s Call It a Day”) as the “classiest guy” he knows. “All these people light up the room when they walk in,” he says. 

    European and North American tours are planned. “It was important for us to do this with people who can eventually join us live on stage when we tour,” says Grossi. “Every night will see different guests appearing. It will be like The Who’s ‘Magic Bus’ tour.” 

    Supersonic Blues Machine marks a new page in the story of three creative musicians with a history of lending their prodigious talents to others. “Here, the artist is us, no boss to follow or established identities to be maintained,” says Aronoff. “We’re writing our own book, and when you have been blessed and enriched by having collaborated with so many significant artists, your vocabulary gets richer.” Adds Lopez: “We’re mixing all the shades of the blues with our personal sound.” 

     

     

Featured Photo

Jim Keltner.Broken Glass DW

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is is a bit different from past featured photos. 

 

 

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