Street Sounds: From ZZ Top to Latin groove

Texas blues rocker, Billy Gibbons adds Cuban rhythms and loosens up with a new group on his first solo album after over 45 years of rocking.

Texas blues rocker, Billy Gibbons adds Cuban rhythms and loosens up with a new group on his first solo album after over 45 years of rocking.

The ZZ Top frontman revisits his teenage tutelage under percussion king Tito Puente with Perfectamundo, and found that boogying and Latin rhythm share kindred ground which he gleefully wails and barks out his gravelly vocals over.

Gibbons and the group (keyboardists Martin Guigui and Mike Finigan, bassist/vocalist Alex Garza, singer Chino Pons and drummer Greg Morrow) start out with a bluesy mambo take on Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It.  From there it’s a cover of Treat Her Right that moves the group into high gear.

Boogie blues and Latin rhythms are what Perfectamundo is about and as Gibbons and company display. It’s an easy mix, full of the greasy, tuneful licks that Gibbons could play in his sleep.  But that’s another way of saying that the Reverend Billy G has got it down.

The album reflects that attitude and the vibe is a percussion-led rhythm fest that is more upbeat than Gibbons’ ZZ Top output.

Treat Her Right, a cover by fellow Texan Roy Head, sets the album straight on course. The song is slinky, sassy and fun.  Following this is You’re What’s Happening, Baby, Sal Y Piemento and Piedros Negras – high energy songs that indicate the excitement in Gibbons new adventure.

Perfectamundo isn’t a major shift from Gibbons’ Tex-Mex sound and style, and on this album there are subtleties such as the interplay and featuring of other instruments and vocalists (keyboards, timbales and second guitar). The counter-rhythms in many of the songs also add a light shade to Gibbons’ high volume riffing.

The only glitch on Perfectamundo is Gibbons’ deliberate overuse of autotune on his growly voice.

Dean Gordon-Smith reviews the latest music releases for The Morning Star every Friday.