Billy Gibbons. With or without the ‘F’, a true rock n’roll legend, a man involved in some of the greatest blues-based shenanigans ever committed to tape – not just with his day job, ZZ Top, but also with multiple guest appearances and collaborations down the years with names as diverse as the hip (Queens of the Stone Age) to the not-quite-so (Brooks and Dunn). With his tongue never far from the inside of his cheek, he’s put his mark on seven consecutive decades of rock n’roll, starting with first band The Moving Sidewalks in 1969 and ending – for the moment, in 2021 with his third solo outing, Hardware.
And what an enjoyable thirty eight minutes of fun n’games Hardware is; taking in all of Gibbons’ various influences, interests, foibles and peccadilloes, the album swoops in and out of a myriad of styles and moods, the constant being the man’s pleasingly lived-in vocals and superior guitar playing. Recorded in the Californian desert with Guns n’Roses/Cult drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Austin Hanks, Hardware is a rollicking trip around the music of America’s south and south west; The dozen tracks on offer are uniformly superb from the predominantly spoken-word tone poem of Desert High to the Los Lobos-styled high jinks of Hey Baby Que Paso, with Gibbons and co stopping at nothing to communicate their joy at being able to bring this music to the masses without the need to meet modern musical mores or satisfy industry demands. The whole album is a gloriously organic-sounding tour de force, and if you’ve enjoyed anything Gibbons has touched in the last fifty-odd years then there’s something for you to enjoy within it’s grooves.
The majestic blues of Shuffle Step Slide is a particular favourite of this reviewer, alongside the rockier S-G-L-M-B-R-R and tear jerking hobo homage Vagabond Man, but there seriously are no weak points to be found here, meaning that each time you slip the album on your ears will be piqued by something satisfying and superbly played. Gibbons has very rarely ever put a foot wrong musically over the course of his career, and that winning streak is maintained gloriously with Hardware. Wonderful stuff.
Hardware releases on June 4th.