Fabulous Thunderbirds – On the Verge (review)

Fabulous Thunderbirds – On the Verge (Severn Records) review

Texas blues legends explore their soulful side on their 13th studio album

The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been playing together for almost 40 years, and you’d think they were pretty well set in their ways by now.  That’s what makes On the Verge such a welcome surprise – they’ve tempered their classic blues sound with a heavy dose of Memphis soul,  and have come up with their finest studio album in years.

The differences may not even be noticeable to some.  After all, lead singer Kim Wilson is still in fine voice, and there’s enough blues going on here that it still genuinely sounds like Thunderbirds’ music.  But, the slinky lines laid down by guitarists Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller end up sounding a lot more like Steve Cropper, than founding guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.  The addition of horns and Kevin Anker’s warm organ help add to the soulfulness.

The album opens with “I Want to Believe,” powered by a driving, funky groove.  That’s followed by the sweet soul of “Lovin’ Time.”  Wilson breaks out his patented blues harp for “Too Much Water,” while a gentle piano opens the ethereal “Hold Me.”

All ten tracks are wrapped in a groove, making it a great driving or party record.  But, there’s enough warm soul in there to make it also good to cuddle up with that special someone.  Every one of the songs was written by members of the band, and every one of them fits perfectly with the album.  Surprisingly for a blues band, most everything is positive too.  They saved one of the best ones for last – “Diamonds Won’t Kiss You Back,” with its stop-start horn break, sounds like it came straight from the Hi Recording studio that gave us all those great Al Green records.

It’s great to see a veteran band like this still capable of surprises.  –Tony Peters