By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


July 17, 2005

Fabulous Thunderbirds
"Painted On"

After a desultory decade or so of revolving lineups and one-off record deals, founding member Kim Wilson has hatched a new flock of T-Birds and produced "Painted On," his strongest band effort in years.

Fans of the mid-'80s, mainstream, "Tuff Enuf" 'Birds and champions of the earlier, bluesier band with long-departed co-founder Jimmie Vaughan will all hear something to like on "Painted On."

Singer-songwriter-harp blower Wilson has kept the great pianist Gene Taylor (the Blasters) on board and added young guitarists Nick Curran and Kirk Eli Fletcher, bassist Ronnie James Weber and drummer Jimi Bott to the mix. And Steve Berlin (the Blasters, Los Lobos) is along to produce as well as help out on percussion, horns and keyboards.

The CD is bookended by "Hard Knock," an up-tempo, Robert Palmer-style blues-rocker at the start and a hidden, slowed-down version to close. Both are worthy.

"Got to Get Out" chugs along with a Chuck Berry-"Memphis, Tenn." rhythm, and "Rock Candy" indeed rocks, propelled by Taylor's piano.

Curran and Fletcher shine in guitar duels on the shuffle "Wild Cherry," as they do on the sexy slow blues of "Postman" ("I'm your postman, baby/bring it to you rain or shine").

Curran also more than holds his own singing lead on his "You Torture Me," perhaps the first time Wilson has ever given up a microphone.

Wilson dishes out a fine slab of horn-backed soul, dueting with Rachel Nagy of the Detroit Cobras on "Love Speaks Louder Than Words," and slows it down for the gospel-style blues of "When I Am Gone."

Instantly recognizable as a T-Birds album yet more adventurous than some more recent efforts, "Painted On" puts the "fab" back in Fabulous Thunderbirds.