Tag Archives: blues

Billy Gibbons Q&A: ZZ Top is still bad and nationwide

ZZ Top (from left): Frank Beard, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill
ZZ Top (from left): Frank Beard, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill

By Barry Gilbert

A chance to interview Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top? Hell, yeah.

Unfortunately, Gibbons is not crazy about doing phone interviews, so we had to settle for an email exchange. That’s good, because it sure is easier. But that’s bad, because there’s no give and take, followup questions or a chance to salvage unresponsive answers. (Not that Billy really did that.)

That little ol’ band from Texas has been on the road for 43 years, and that road was taking it to St. Louis on Aug. 24. A concert advance based on this interview for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch can be found here.

Following is our email exchange, with editing only for punctuation and clarity.

BG: I’m sure you get asked this every day, but here it is again: How is it possible for a band to be together for so long with no personnel changes, no breakups and reunions, no tabloid dirt dishing? How do you all handle conflict?

Gibbons: First, and foremost, we embrace the continual good time doing the ‘whatever’…! We like to keep on keepin’ on with, as we like to say, ‘the same three guys and the same three chords.’ Maybe it’s that we’re a trio as it’s an odd number (very odd in our case) so no ties in the case of a vote. We like playing and recording, so no reason to stop. OK, most bands break up and, inevitably, get back together, so if you’d like to think of the past 10, 20 or 30 years as a ‘reunion tour,’ feel free to do so.

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Sidesaddle pianist Marcia Ball still loves those roadside attractions

Marcia Ball

(This interview was conducted in advance of a Marcia Ball show scheduled for July 7, 2013, at the Old Rock House in St. Louis. Alas, the show was cancelled by the venue.)

By Barry Gilbert

Over almost four decades, a lot of amazing, funny and just plain weird stuff has floated by the windows of Marcia Ball’s tour vehicles. And the Texas-born and Lousiana-reared roadhouse R&B singer and pianist has stopped and gawked at most of them.

Among them, as chronicled in her song “Roadside Attractions,” are a concrete dinosaur, Jesus in a screen door, a blue ox, chimney rocks, two-headed livestock, “Alligator Jumparoo,” the corn palace, the fair in Dallas, redwood trees, a giant strawberry, a 2-ton ball of string, snake farms, longhorns and rock star millionaires.

And, Ball says, a telephone booth.

A telephone booth?

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Dave Alvin on mortality, happenstance and ‘Eleven Eleven’

Dave Alvin
Dave Alvin

By Barry Gilbert

Dave Alvin has become one of America’s greatest songwriters and guitar players. His early work with the punk-fueled R&B/rockabilly band the Blasters has matured into an adventurous exploration of American roots music encompassing folk, country and the blues.

His story and love songs are rooted in real people, ordinary working people facing personal and societal challenges yet somehow hanging on to a sliver of hope. Among his best: “Fourth of July,” “King of California,” “Ashgrove” and the new “Gary, Indiana 1959,” plus exquisite co-writes with Tom Russell on “Haley’s Comet,” “California Snow” and “Out in California.”

I interviewed Alvin for a Post-Dispatch story on June 14, 2011. I reached him on a tour stop in Asheville, N.C., about 11 o’clock in the morning — early for a working musician — and he apologized for not being totally awake. Here is a transcript of that interview, lightly edited for length and clarity.

We began by talking about Chris Gaffney, a fine singer-songwriter and accordion player and Alvin’s best friend who died of liver cancer at age 57 on April 17, 2008. Gaffney recorded with his own band as well as the great Hacienda Brothers, and he was a member of Alvin’s Guilty Men.

I told Dave I bought my first Gaffney album, “Chris Gaffney & the Cold Hard Facts,” in 1989 based only on the title and band name and became a fan instantly. I talked to Gaffney a couple of times at Alvin shows, and enjoyed the conversations.

Gaffney’s death hit Alvin hard.

DA: I could go on for hours. He was my best friend. He got all my jokes.

BG: Yeah, that is the mark of a best friend, isn’t it.

DA: That is the mark of a best friend (laughing).

BG: And if they don’t, they just pretend they do.

DA: He never pretended. He would let me know, on a scale of 1 to 10, how good the jokes were.

BG: “Two Lucky Bums” (on “Eleven Eleven”) of course is a duet with Chris. You had originally offered that as a download. And it’s that version I assume that’s on the CD.

DA: Yeah. I cut a couple of other songs for the record, and when I was piecing things together it kind of made sense to put it on and hold a couple of other things. … That just kind of summed everything up.

BG: There is a subtext of mortality on the new CD. Is that the influence of Chris’ passing, or is it bigger than that?

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Blues from the Crescent City

david egan cd cover

David Egan
“You Don’t Know Your Mind”
Out of the Past/Rhonda Sue Records
**** (out of five)

By Barry Gilbert

Pianist David Egan, who stepped out of the songwriter/sidemen shadows four years ago at the age of 54, is back with his sophomore release, a tasty stew of New Orleans sounds called “You Don’t Know Your Mind.”

Egan conjures up the likes of Doctor John, Professor Longhair and Huey “Piano” Smith over 11 tracks of blues, R&B, rock and roll, zydeco and even some cool 1 a.m. lounge music. He is once again aided by producer/guitarist Joe McMahan, a St. Louis favorite after visits with, among others, Kevin Gordon, who also gives Egan a hand.

Standout tracks include the sultry “If It Is What It Is (It’s Love)” with Jennifer Nicely; “Proud Dog,” in which Egan writes a manifesto for survivors (“well the cat gets nine and you only got one/so you better just have a little doggone fun”); and the funny and touching “Small Fry,” in which Egan sings a love song to his “darling son” — and “blue-eyed beast.”

Egan paid his dues, writing for Joe Cocker and Percy Sledge, and playing in bands such as Lil’ Band o’ Gold with Cajun guitarist C.C. Adcock. Now it’s Egan’s time, and he’s making the most of it.

And so it begins …

This blog is intended as a place for fans of roots music — country, alt-country, roots rock, blues etc — to get together and discuss and critique our favorite music. I’ve been writing about music for many years forcowboy logo mainstream newspapers, and I’m looking forward to freeing my inner fan.

For the past 10 years, I have worked as a copy editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writing about music for the Everyday, Get Out and A&E sections: CD and concert reviews, concert previews, artist profiles, and Best Bets and Critic’s Picks. A link to those stories can be found on the Story Library page of this blog, or here.

Future posts will consist of original stories and reviews, as well as stories published by the Post-Dispatch, with links to the newspaper’s website, STLtoday.com.

I’ll also pass on links to other websites, blogs and music-releated places that catch my eye.

What are you listening to?

— Barry Gilbert