Reviews

“On The Verge” by Nick DeRiso
Kim Wilson, in detouring through the slow-simmering joys of R&B on this new Fabulous Thunderbirds recording, has allowed himself a remarkable depth of feeling. It is, to my ear, the best he’s ever sung.

On the Verge, set for release via Severn Records, hews closer to the Stax Records aesthetic than it does the Texas roadhouse, beginning with “I Want To Believe” — which opens On the Verge at a slow boil, sounding like a lost Staples Singers side. That sets the stage for a series of similarly focused groovers, most written by Wilson and co-producer/keyboardist Kevin Anker.

Not that you can’t peg this as the Fabulous Thunderbirds, whatever the album’s atmospherics. There’s just suddenly a lot more going on around what was once a straight-forward sound.

Wilson adds a few tough blasts on the harp to “Too Much Water,” for instance, but it’s amidst a polyrhythm straight out of the Hi Rhythm Section’s playbook. Elsewhere, “Hold Me” finds Wilson barking with an attitude not unlike “Wrap It Up,” before settling into a reggae-inflected tune of quiet majesty and supremely urbane coolness. The playful 1950s riff of “Lovin’ Time” will take longtime fans back to the band’s Jimmie Vaughan era, but — as Wilson unleashes another startlingly unguarded vocal — not for long. He didn’t sound this good back then.

Bassist Randy Bermudes contributes “Runnin’ from the Blues,” a song whose desperately sad lyric would have been obscured by its redemptive groove — if not for Wilson’s raw delivery. (The Fabulous Thunderbirds are rounded out these days by guitarists Mike Keller and Johnny Moeller, and drummer Jason Moeller.) “Do You Know Who I Am,” written by Wilson alone, is a stark story song that digs even deeper, discussing our priorities during tough times.

In a show of force, Wilson’s “That’s the Way We Roll” grinds with a rooster-tailing menace, but not before the the Thunderbirds unleash a furious funk number in “Got to Bring It With You.” “Diamonds Don’t Kiss You Back,” by Steve Gomes (who also joined in composing several other cuts here with Wilson and Anker), finds Wilson channeling soul-blues greats like Little Milton and Johnnie Taylor. If the last time you checked in with Wilson was on MTV-era videos for tracks like “Tuff Enuff,” his evolution as a vocalist arrives like a thunderclap of wonder.

“Lonely Highway,” the last of three tunes co-written with David Earl, gives Wilson another chance to reassert one of the few things he hadn’t yet on this tour-de-force recording — his once and future prowess on the harmonica. Where so many are content to squall their way through, Wilson displays a hard-won sense of restraint.

Like so much of On the Verge, it’s filled with as much ambition and verve as it is pure, thrumming emotion.

CONCERT REVIEW: George Thorogood, Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Robert Cray

August 16, 2010

It was a blues triple bill Wednesday night at CMAC, starring George Thorogood, Robert Cray, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Despite an entirely new line-up and a lack of the hipster grease that once defined the band’s persona, the night belonged to the T-Birds, especially after front man Kim Wilson’s five-minute solo breakdown on the harp tune “Down At Antones” (a tribute to the Austin, Texas joint where the band first got its feet wet). Wilson obviously possesses the secrets to circular breathing — breathing in while simultaneously blowing out — emitting one constant and uninterrupted note after the next. Just watching him was exhausting. The band’s set was short and sweet, filled with gems like “My Babe,” off of one of my favorite records, “T-Bird Rhythm,” and a rather stiff version of the hit “Tuff Enuff” that still brought the crowd to its feet. Robert Cray filled the middle slot with his soulful voice and tight Strato twang. They say it’s the blues, but if you ask me, Cray is more of a soul singer; he’s like Sam Cooke with a guitar. His set was nice but a bit mellow for my particular mood. I was there for some balls-to-the-walls guitar. I was there for George Thorogood. Thorogood is the last of the true song-and-dance men. He heaps on healthy doses of vaudeville shtick, Bob Hope one-liners (“I can’t believe it’s me”) and dance moves that resemble a cross between Little Richard and a corpulent booty-shaker of color (is that too PC?). Thorogood’s guitar was a bit buried in the mix, but his voice sounded great. His light show was a bit Vegas, but the rock was solid. Even still, for my money, it was The Thunderbirds’ night.


Heart and soul of the blues

July 27, 2010

The Daily Advance

by By Robert Kelly-Goss

“I was thinking about wearing a Western shirt but I think it’s too hot,” Kim Wilson said to me backstage at Neptune’s Park in Virginia Beach, Va. last week. “Yeah,” I said, “I’d stick with that one.” Wilson is the front man and co-founder of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Dressed out in his white short sleeve shirt, black jeans and pointed Texas-style boots, he looked every bit the Texas blues front man he is known to be. Wilson, guitarists Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller, bassist Randy Bermudes and drummer Jay Moeller blasted their style of blues that Wilson has said is a culmination of blues and various “Americana” styles, resulting in what critics have called one of the most important blues bands in the history of the genre. And at the heart of it, the boys of The Fabulous Thunderbirds are the conveyors of some of the most hard-driving, soul-searching blues found anywhere today. The music began back in the 1970s when Wilson and Jimmie Vaughan launched the band in Austin, Texas. In the 1980s, they made the charts with hits like “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap it Up.” But these guys aren’t a throwback band, playing tunes to a crowd of nostalgic rock and rollers. The Fabulous Thunderbirds are a working blues band who keep it fresh with new songs largely written by Wilson, and a score of albums that would stock any CD kiosk or digital playlist with some of the most genuine, heartfelt American music written in past 40-plus years. While the crowd went wild over the band’s classic “Tuff Enuff,” it was Wilson’s recently penned song, “Do You Know Who I am,” that brought his blues roots to bear in the open-air venue last week. According to my longtime friend and band stage manager Steve Thomas, Wilson wrote the song last year in response to the economic meltdown. It’s the sort of song that lets you know that not only are artists such as Wilson still in touch with the world around them, but that the blues is just as relevant today as it ever was, and perhaps even more so as this nation struggles to understand its place in a changing world. Wilson stood at the microphone, body swaying, arms flailing, as he belted out the lyrics to a song about good people falling on hard times. Johnny Moeller’s guitar licks rang out with angst-ridden ecstasy as Wilson’s vocals echoed, crying over a man’s tears at the uncertainty of hard times. “Do you know who I am?” Wilson sang out. It was the blues at its finest. It was the sort of sound that brings me to my Arkansas and Mississippi Delta roots; blues that dig deep into the soul and touches me with multiple levels of instrumental vibrations and cerebral musings as the lyrics tell a story, as only the blues can tell it. As I stood off to the side of the stage, my wife’s body swaying to the rifts and beats beside me, I could feel the intensity of emotions brought on by these guys. I could feel the music reaching down, deep down, and it was fabulous!


Thunderbirds especially Fabulous these days

June 17, 2010

by Tim Parsons

 

Click here for review.


The State Of The Blues of Yesterday And Today

June 8, 2010

by Devon Wendell

I recently had a candid conversation with Kim Wilson. Wilson has been the front man and co-founder of The Fabulous Thunderbirds for over 30 years now and has also enjoyed a fruitful and influential solo career. Considered by many to be one of the greatest blues harmonica players and singers alive, he has shared his unique blend of blues, soul, and rock with some of the greatest pioneers in music: Muddy Waters, Albert Collins, Eddie Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, John Lee Hooker, Paul Simon, Buddy Guy, and many more. Wilson continues to tour and to preserve American musical history. DW: How do you see the state of the blues today? Are the glory days over? KW: Yes, been over for many years. All you can do is be nostalgic and modern at the same time. When I was growing up, the college kids were finding Muddy Waters plus the English kids were so enthusiastic and gave a lot of publicity to the older American blues players. There was so much going on in the ’60s with the blues, but the true heydays were from ’51-’59. That period will never be topped. You listen to those recordings of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, and Little Walter, and wow! People like myself, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Lazy Lester and Albert Collins to name a few, continued through the ’80′s. Thank God I got to start playing with those guys in the late ’60′s and ’70′s. DW: Tell me about the first harmonica you ever had. How old were you? KW: I was 17 years old. It was a Marine band that cost $1.75 at the time. I saw a guy playing a harp in school, and blues was big with a lot of white kids at the time. So I thought, “Hey I can do that better than them,” so I got started. Once I got into my first bands, I got serious about my influences like George “Harmonica” Smith and James Cotton. I was a singer first and the next thing you know I’m playing with Eddie Taylor, Johnny Shines, Fenton Robinson, Albert Collins, Lowell Fulson. It was blues history, both here in California and in Austin when I’d be playing at Antone’s with all those great players coming through. DW: How did moving to California change your musical career? KW: I moved to California from Detroit when I was 9. California radio at that time changed my life forever. Especially living in Goleta. Wow. Everything was on AM radio at the time, plus you had those offshore stations. And between the two, you’d hear everything from Little Walter, Bobby Bland, Slim Harpo all this blues. And at the same time they were playing James Brown, Otis Redding, The Singing Nun, and “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” [laughter]. Then, after a while, the crossover stuff came in, and it was never the same. DW: Besides your own incredible legacy as a solo artist and with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, you’ve played alongside some of the greatest pioneers of blues and r&b, like Eddie Taylor, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and so many more. Who do you have the fondest memories of playing with? KW: Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers. That was the peak of it. They were so respectful. At first it was “Yes sir, thank you sir,” but as much as I had to give them the respect they deserved, by the end of the day, you’ve got to write your own chapter in the book and blow. That’s what I did. No one can take that away from me. DW: You’ve often said that Muddy Waters was your greatest influence and mentor. What it was like working and spending time with Muddy? KW: As young as I was, wow! I was 23-24 and Muddy was making me stand up in front of the audience saying to everyone, “This guy’s the best thing since Little Walter.” Even if it wasn’t true, I can never forget that. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep your head on your shoulders. You can’t just dwell on a few influences or you’ll never grow. DW: Did you ever get the chance to play with Howlin’ Wolf? And if so, what was it like? KW: I did. I did a show with Wolf towards the end of his life. He was very ill at the time and taking nitroglycerin on stage. I met Hubert Sumlin there, and Albert Collins was there, too. Hubert and Albert had each other in headlocks shouting, “Look who I found!” That band was Hubert, S.P. Leary, Detroit Junior, and Eddie Shaw. There’s nothing like the Wolf. He was the greatest voice in the blues ever. As much as I love Muddy and he was a mentor, Wolf is my favorite blues singer of all time. DW: You refuse any comparisons with Little Walter. So how would you describe your harmonica style? KW: Well, it’s about musical freedom. Walter certainly had that. I do whatever it takes to get an emotional response from an audience. Each influence takes you in a different direction. It’s more about feeling than being an acrobat who plays a zillion notes. Big Walter was a huge influence on me, too. He offered me a spot in his band and said to me; ”I won’t just teach you how to play, I’ll teach you how to be a man.” [Laughter] I was one of the last guys to get in with those legends. DW: You played Little Walter’s music on the Grammy nominated soundtrack for the film Cadillac Records. How were you able capture his style so well while maintaining your own musical identity? KW: It’s not really my thing to just come in and knock things out. I just tried to capture the energy. Luckily they let me wing it a little. There’s no way you’re going to capture the original spot on, because it’s all improvisation. Walter was improvising. Your own style will always be up front. [Producer] Steve Jordan was very cool. I relish being nominated for a Grammy. DW: Has jazz had an impact on your playing? KW: Absolutely. Some of my influences were Gene Ammons, Illinois Jacquet, Wayne Shorter, Miles, Art Blakey, Charlie Christian, and Kenny Burrell, who’s still amazing today. But I also love George Jones, Hank Williams, and Buck Owens. There’s that side to me as well. DW: How would you describe your approach to making recordings? KW: I always want to present a broad amount of influences, a taste of everything I can do, plus put down the harp and sing. From Bobby Bland to Memphis Slim and Otis Rush. That sound. For the blues stuff, if I don’t always record to mono, I mix to it. Nothing can replace that analog sound. DW: You hear a lot of blues artists record digitally now. KM: Yeah, it doesn’t sound right. You’ve got to have a pure sound. DW: Do you think the troubled state of today’s economy has had an impact on the blues? KW: It’s had an impact on everything. The local watering holes where you’d hear some real blues in have gone down. And now you got these guys walking into clubs with Marshall stacks calling their music the blues and it’s just pollution. There’s this misrepresentation of what real blues is now. That stuff is not the blues. The purity is lost. DW: Can you explain the difference between your work as front man, as co-founder of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and as a solo artist? KW: My solo stuff is more traditional and with the Thunderbirds there’s a hybrid of soul, country, and blues. I don’t have to call off a song with either band, I can just start playing. There’s never any dead air when I perform with either band, too; it’s always happening. DW: There have always been many clichéd images of the blues harmonica player in popular media, from Hollywood celebs trying to play the harp in beer commercials wearing the shades and hat ala the Blues Brothers, to the hobo on the train, or prison inmate. Do you think these images make it harder for the instrument to be taken seriously as a distinct musical craft on its own? KW: Yeah, but If they’re doing it with respect and sincerity, it’s fine. Bruce Willis actually loves the music. Unless it’s a clown show, it doesn’t bother me. Even the Blues Brothers pointed out who wrote each song and talked about a band. Even if you’re wearing a tutu up there, if it’s genuine, it will work. DW: Your vocal style is as distinct as your harp playing. How has r&b and soul music inspired your voice over the years? KW: I’m really a blues singer first but soul is what I grew up on. The Four Tops, The Temptations, it was all around me at the same time. I found that playing that r&b beat was important to the people. Even James Cotton covered “Knock On Wood” and it sounded nothing like Eddie Floyd [Laughter]. That beat is so important to me. DW: Do you play both diatonic and chromatic harps? What the difference in approach? KW: Oh yes. I’m not one of those chromatic over blowers, though, and I only play chromatic with my solo group and never with the Thunderbirds. I won’t mention any names, but you’ve got people playing the same chromatic runs over and over. I don’t do that. DW: How do other instruments like saxes, trumpets, guitar, and vocals influence your phrasing on the harp? KW: Anything that catches my ear. It’s always a melodic thing. There’s this T-Bone Walker lick I play on harp that T-Bone would always play on guitar. Vocalists only influence my singing, though I did learn to play melodies on harp by humming them first. DW: Muddy Waters often said that one “Must pay the cost out there to play the blues,” or have survived “Real problems,” yet the music has even found its way onto American Idol. How do you think Muddy would feel about that? KW: Really? Are you serious? DW: Afraid so. KW: (after a pause) I think he’d be ok with it, actually. He’d say, “It’s about time the music got a little respect.” Unless they’re doing it poorly. DW: Are there any new harp players out there today who have caught your ear? KW: Yeah, Vincent Bury with his band The Salt Shakers. A player from Montreal named Barath Rajakumar, and I like Steve Mariner a lot too. DW: How would you like future generations to remember your music? KW: I’d like them to consider me part of the players I grew up with, like Muddy Waters, Eddie Taylor, James Cotton. DW: What do you have to say to those young music students out there who think the blues is easy to play? KW: If the real thing was easy to play, there would be a lot more people doing it, really playing, and especially singing, the blues. DW: Thanks for your time! KW: Thank you; it’s been a pleasure.

Click here for review.


Johnny Moeller featured in Guitar Edge

May 28, 2010

Checkout Johnny Moeller featured in Guitar Edge.

Click here for review.


Aftermath: The Fabulous Thunderbirds Warm Up The Rodeo BBQ Cookoff

April 27, 2010

by Chris Gray

It never fails to amaze Aftermath that what little real spring Houston actually gets usually happens during the three weeks the rodeo is in town. If the city is in the grip of winter when the cookoff crews fire up their BBQ pits, you can bet AC units across town will be going full-blast by the time the final “Xtreme Bull” has bucked its last rider. It’s like Houston’s own mesquite-flavored extended version of Groundhog Day. So get ready to put those winter coats away, because so far things seem to be going according to plan. Friday night at the cookoff, the wind came whipping out of the north as if to demonstrate that winter isn’t going away without a fight, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds replied with more than an hour of Texas blues as tangy as the smoke drifting out of the many pits and food concessions ringing the Miller Lite stage.The T-Birds’ 1986 smash “Tuff Enuff” shot the band out of the orbit of Antone’s, the Austin blues institution that incubated the group and its late-’70s cohorts such as Storm, Paul Ray & the Cobras and the Nightcrawlers. As hit songs often do, it gave many people a fleeting (and not altogether correct) impression of a band that had worked for years to enjoy those 15 minutes in the sun. In other words, in the week or two before the T-Birds played the rodeo, we were a little surprised that whenever the subject came up, how many people thought Jimmie Vaughan was still in the band. He hasn’t been since the very early ’90s, but he was when “Tuff Enuff” came out, which is good enough to freeze the T-Birds in people’s minds. Freeze them both fairly and unfairly. Ever since Vaughan left, the Thunderbirds have more or less been Kim Wilson and whichever hired guns he’s got on board at the moment, but some of those guns have some pretty serious firepower themselves. Friday’s T-Birds featured guitarist Mike Keller and a couple of the Moeller Brothers, all of whom also cut their teeth at Antone’s – only about 20 years after Wilson and the original T-Birds were hanging around hoping Muddy Waters would let them open a gig. Instead, Keller and the Moellers hung around hoping that maybe Wilson would show up to one of Antone’s legendary Blue Monday jam sessions if he was in town; regardless, early T-birds records such as 1980′s What’s the Word? and 1981′s Butt Rockin’ figured the same in their musical development as Waters had for Wilson and his co-founders. That’s why, although the T-Birds’ set Friday was stuffed with older material such as “Wait On Time,” “She’s Tuff,” “Wrap It Up” – before they really wrapped it up with “Tuff Enuff,” of course – they didn’t come across as a nostalgia act. There was enough newer material, and although none of it strayed very far from the roadhouse-meets-swamp feel that has defined the T-Birds since day one, it didn’t need to. Wilson and the T-Birds’ brief flirtation with big-time Top 10 success did two things: It gave the T-Birds enough recognition that invitations to play events like the rodeo cookoff will never be very far away. And although it stamped a very particular sound into a lot of people’s minds and memories – a sound that, to give the band its propers, was theirs long before “Tuff Enuff” – it also gave Wilson and his hired hands almost unlimited license to tinker with and refine that sound at their leisure, which from all appearances Friday night, they continue to do with relish. The freeze, and then the thaw. If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Click here for review.


The Fabulous Thunderbirds ready to rock

April 27, 2010

by Tom Lounges

For more than 30 years, Kim Wilson and the ever-evolving membership of The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been busting out a unique hybrid of Americana music that is equal parts blues, rock and soul. That tradition continues later this year, as the Grammy-nominated group make their 12th studio album. “We’re doing this one on our own,” said Wilson of the band’s first new release in five years. “We’re financing it, producing it ourselves and taking as much time as we need on it.” Wilson is listed as producer, but is quick to point out that everyone in the band has had a voice in how the album is being created. “You learn to do this by osmosis,” mused Wilson of his studio production skills. “You can’t work for years alongside producers like Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and Denny Bruce and not pick up a few things.” British-born Lowe and Edmunds – both former members of the UK group Rockpile – are rock stars in their own right, aside from being top-shelf producers and songwriters. The Fabulous Thunderbirds met them during their first tour of England. “We hit it off with them as soon as we met. Nick approached us first about going in the studio with him,” recalled Wilson. The result of that pairing was 1982′s “T-Bird Rhythm” album, a solid collection that sadly failed to yield any hits. Edmunds replaced Lowe at the console for the group’s next album in 1986, and their collaboration on “Tuff Enuff” spawned two major singles in the title track and “Wrap It Up.” That fifth career album finally put the Texas-based T-Birds on the international music radar and the success of those singles turned them into MTV stars. Edmunds remained their producer for three more albums over five years, before major changes in the T-birds line-up and the changing music trends of the 1990s disrupted “business as usual” for the group. After more than a decade with Sony-owned Epic Records, the group’s last three albums were released by a variety of independent labels, an experience that has not seemed to bode well with Wilson. Because of the band’s hands-on, do-it-yourself approach with this latest collection, Wilson said they are simply calling the new album, “The Fabulous Thunderbirds.” “An early version of it will be available at the (Star Plaza) show on Saturday,” said Wilson, noting those copies may wind up being collector’s items since the official album is still a work in progress and some of the songs and packaging are likely to change. The current T-birds incarnation has been together about three years. Along with founding member Wilson on lead vocals and harmonica, are drummer Jay Moeller, bassist Randy Bermudes and guitarists Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller. “These guys are incredible players,” said Wilson of his new line-up. “The Thunderbirds have always had outstanding musicians over the years, but honestly this group of guys is the best yet.”

Click here for review.


Aftermath: The Fabulous Thunderbirds Warm Up The Rodeo BBQ Cookoff

April 21, 2010

by Chris Gray

It never fails to amaze Aftermath that what little real spring Houston actually gets usually happens during the three weeks the rodeo is in town. If the city is in the grip of winter when the cookoff crews fire up their BBQ pits, you can bet AC units across town will be going full-blast by the time the final “Xtreme Bull” has bucked its last rider. It’s like Houston’s own mesquite-flavored extended version of Groundhog Day.

So get ready to put those winter coats away, because so far things seem to be going according to plan. Friday night at the cookoff, the wind came whipping out of the north as if to demonstrate that winter isn’t going away without a fight, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds replied with more than an hour of Texas blues as tangy as the smoke drifting out of the many pits and food concessions ringing the Miller Lite stage.

T-Birds’ 1986 smash “Tuff Enuff” shot the band out of the orbit of Antone’s, the Austin blues institution that incubated the group and its late-’70s cohorts such as Storm, Paul Ray & the Cobras and the Nightcrawlers. As hit songs often do, it gave many people a fleeting (and not altogether correct) impression of a band that had worked for years to enjoy those 15 minutes in the sun.

In other words, in the week or two before the T-Birds played the rodeo, we were a little surprised that whenever the subject came up, how many people thought Jimmie Vaughan was still in the band. He hasn’t been since the very early ’90s, but he was when “Tuff Enuff” came out, which is good enough to freeze the T-Birds in people’s minds.

Freeze them both fairly and unfairly.

Ever since Vaughan left, the Thunderbirds have more or less been Kim Wilson and whichever hired guns he’s got on board at the moment, but some of those guns have some pretty serious firepower themselves.

Friday’s T-Birds featured guitarist Mike Keller and a couple of the Moeller Brothers, all of whom also cut their teeth at Antone’s – only about 20 years after Wilson and the original T-Birds were hanging around hoping Muddy Waters would let them open a gig.

Instead, Keller and the Moellers hung around hoping that maybe Wilson would show up to one of Antone’s legendary Blue Monday jam sessions if he was in town; regardless, early T-birds records such as 1980′s What’s the Word? and 1981′s Butt Rockin’ figured the same in their musical development as Waters had for Wilson and his co-founders.

That’s why, although the T-Birds’ set Friday was stuffed with older material such as “Wait On Time,” “She’s Tuff,” “Wrap It Up” – before they really wrapped it up with “Tuff Enuff,” of course – they didn’t come across as a nostalgia act. There was enough newer material, and although none of it strayed very far from the roadhouse-meets-swamp feel that has defined the T-Birds since day one, it didn’t need to.

Wilson and the T-Birds’ brief flirtation with big-time Top 10 success did two things: It gave the T-Birds enough recognition that invitations to play events like the rodeo cookoff will never be very far away. And although it stamped a very particular sound into a lot of people’s minds and memories – a sound that, to give the band its propers, was theirs long before “Tuff Enuff” – it also gave Wilson and his hired hands almost unlimited license to tinker with and refine that sound at their leisure, which from all appearances Friday night, they continue to do with relish.

The freeze, and then the thaw. If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Click here for review.


The Fabulous Thunderbirds ready to rock – Band opens for George Thorogood Saturday at Star Plaza

April 21, 2010

by Tom Lounges

For more than 30 years, Kim Wilson and the ever-evolving membership of The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been busting out a unique hybrid of Americana music that is equal parts blues, rock and soul.

That tradition continues later this year, as the Grammy-nominated group make their 12th studio album.

“We’re doing this one on our own,” said Wilson of the band’s first new release in five years. “We’re financing it, producing it ourselves and taking as much time as we need on it.”
Wilson is listed as producer, but is quick to point out that everyone in the band has had a voice in how the album is being created.

“You learn to do this by osmosis,” mused Wilson of his studio production skills. “You can’t work for years alongside producers like Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and Denny Bruce and not pick up a few things.”

British-born Lowe and Edmunds – both former members of the UK group Rockpile – are rock stars in their own right, aside from being top-shelf producers and songwriters. The Fabulous Thunderbirds met them during their first tour of England.

“We hit it off with them as soon as we met. Nick approached us first about going in the studio with him,” recalled Wilson. The result of that pairing was 1982′s “T-Bird Rhythm” album, a solid collection that sadly failed to yield any hits.

Edmunds replaced Lowe at the console for the group’s next album in 1986, and their collaboration on “Tuff Enuff” spawned two major singles in the title track and “Wrap It Up.” That fifth career album finally put the Texas-based T-Birds on the international music radar and the success of those singles turned them into MTV stars.

Edmunds remained their producer for three more albums over five years, before major changes in the T-birds line-up and the changing music trends of the 1990s disrupted “business as usual” for the group.

After more than a decade with Sony-owned Epic Records, the group’s last three albums were released by a variety of independent labels, an experience that has not seemed to bode well with Wilson.

Because of the band’s hands-on, do-it-yourself approach with this latest collection, Wilson said they are simply calling the new album, “The Fabulous Thunderbirds.”

“An early version of it will be available at the (Star Plaza) show on Saturday,” said Wilson, noting those copies may wind up being collector’s items since the official album is still a work in progress and some of the songs and packaging are likely to change.

The current T-birds incarnation has been together about three years. Along with founding member Wilson on lead vocals and harmonica, are drummer Jay Moeller, bassist Randy Bermudes and guitarists Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller.

“These guys are incredible players,” said Wilson of his new line-up. “The Thunderbirds have always had outstanding musicians over the years, but honestly this group of guys is the best yet.”

The Fabulous Thunderbirds, with George Thorogood & The Destroyers, 8 p.m. March 27

WHERE: Star Plaza Theatre, I-65 & U.S. 30, Merrillville

COST: $29, $39 (all ages)

Click here for review.


 

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