This year marks the 40th anniversary of the debut release from that little ol’ band from Texas, ZZ Top. To commemorate the occasion, a number of bands— some clearly influenced by the trio, others not— have come together for “ZZ Top: A Tribute From Friends,” which is out tomorrow (Oct. 18).
As is almost uniformly the case with these endeavors, the results are mixed. The one rule is that if you’re going to If you’re going to salute ZZ Top, you better bring your A Game when it comes to guitar playing. For the most part, that’s where the album excels...in some cases to the exclusion of everything else.
For example, Jamey Johnson’s “La Grange,” which is the perfect marriage on paper, is one of the more anemic cuts vocally, after starting strong It should be all laid-back growl and swamp boogie-messiness, and instead it’s all a little too polite. There’s a word I never thought I’d use in connection with Johnson. There is, however, a great guitar riff that segues into a meaty organ solo in the middle that goes into some wicked harmonica work, so what it lacks in Johnson’s vocal delivery, it makes up for (and how) in the musicianship on the track. I wish it were an instrumental, and I say that as a Johnson fan. Of course, it should sound great: Johnson brought in a ringer: ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons is on the guitar shootout that also includes Wayd Battle and “Cowboy” Eddie Long on slide. Absolute killer.
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