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Album Review : Billy F Gibbons: ‘Hardware’

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Review by By: Andy Houghton for MPM

Hardware‘ is the third solo album from ZZ Top frontman Billy F Gibbons, following on from ‘Perfectamundo‘ in 2015 and ‘The Big Bad Blues‘ three years later.

Whilst the Latin vibe of ‘Perfectamundo‘ found Gibbons exploring new territory, ‘The Big Bad Blues‘ saw him heading back towards his ZZ Top home, and that’s where he’s remained for ‘Hardware‘.The album was recorded at Escape Studio, located near Palm Springs in California’s high desert.

The desert vibe permeates the album itself, with Gibbons’ dry, raspy vocals providing the perfect overlay for the scorching Southern rock. Says Gibbons, “The desert settings, replete with shifting sands, cacti and rattlesnakes makes for the kind of backdrop that lends an element of intrigue reflected in the sounds created out there.

My Lucky Card‘ delivers an attention-grabbing opener, a no-nonsense rocker driven forwards by its insistent guitar riff, and it’s immediately evident that Gibbons’ septuagenarian voice has lost none of its power.

She’s On Fire‘ follows in similar vein, and delivers an early highlight with not one but two enjoyable guitar solos.The appropriately titled ‘More-More-More‘ takes things up a notch – it’s a loud, brash and full-on slice of blues rock. However, it would be a mistake to regard this album as a one-trick pony.

There’s nuance interwoven with the traditional hard rock, with elements of neo-metal, country rock, new wave, blues and even surf music that make ‘Hardware‘ difficult to categorize.Album highlights include ‘Stackin’ Bones‘, which features a guest appearance from roots rock band Larkin Poe, whose silky backing vocals provide a contradistinction to Gibbons’ growling vocals, and the closing track ‘Desert High‘, a stunningly-delivered spoken word piece accompanied by a sinewy guitar that evokes the legendary Gram parsons.

Gibbons sums up Hardware‘s ecumenical construct, “We holed up in the desert for a few weeks in the heat of the summer and that in itself was pretty intense.

To let off steam we just ‘let it rock’ and that’s what Hardware is really all about. For the most part, it’s a raging rocker but always mindful of the desert’s implicit mystery.”Which sums the album up pretty well.

Hardware‘ showcases what Billy F Gibbons does best – Southern blues rock with powerful vocals and compelling instrumentals, which provides an effective evocation of the scenery and mood of the Californian desert. Highly recommended.

My Lucky Card” the new music video by Billy F Gibbons from his forthcoming album ‘Hardware’, available on June 4th on Concord Records. Pre-order ‘Hardware’: https://found.ee/BillyFGibbons-Hardware

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