Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On The Verge reviewed by Rick Davis

On The Verge
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Severn Records
10 Tracks

After they formed in 1974, the Fabulous Thunderbirds have been the Who's Who of blues personnel. Next year will be their 40th Anniversary and the only constant still remaining is founding member, Kim Wilson. With all the roster changes over the years, Wilson has been able to seek out some of the most talented blues artists in the business. Stars like Jimmie Vaughan, Keith Ferguson, Mike Buck, Fran Christina, Preston Hubbard, Duke Robillard, Doug "Kid" Bangham, Gene Taylor, Kid Ramos, Willie Campbell, Jimi Bott, Richard Innes, Steve Hodges, Ronnie James Weber, Troy Gonyea, Kirk Fletcher, and Nick Curran have joined forces with Kim Wilson to keep the flame burning for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. 2013 marks their latest release on the Severn Records label On The Verge.

The current line-up of Randy Bermudes on bass, Mike Keller and Johnny Moeller sharing the guitar duties, and Jason Moeller on drums, help the Fabulous Thunderbirds maintain that reputation of being one of the strongest blues bands to ever come out of Texas. With the new supporting cast, Kim Wilson's solid vocals, and his superb harmonica style, On The Verge confirms that the Fabulous Thunderbirds are here to stay for a long time. This album focuses on Kim's vocals more than any other Fabulous Thunderbirds CD released, and it is clear that this is his finest performance. This is a total withdrawal from their all too familiar T-Birds sound, with a collection of 10 brand new soulful R&B tunes, taking the Fabulous Thunderbirds in a new direction. The song writing team of Kevin Anker, David Earl, Steve Gomes, and Kim Wilson also produced the album.

They open with a pair of Anker, Earl, Gomes, Wilson tunes titled "I Want To Believe" and "Lovin' Time." "I Want To Believe" sets the stage for the same brand of soul as The Staple Singers "Respect Yourself." "Lovin' Time" would make a perfect duet with Brook Benton and Kim Wilson. Anker and Wilson team up for the next pair of tunes "Too Much Water" and "Hold Me." Wilson adds his harp for the first time to "Too Much Water" a tune that could be a rival to the O.V. Wright song "Everybody Knows (The River Song)." The horn arrangements of Kenny Rittenhouse lift "Hold Me" to another level. A funky rhythm guitar is heard thought out the Frank Randall Bermudes tune "Runnin’ From The Blues," as Wilson laments about spending a lifetime running from the blues. Kim Wilson penned the next tune "Do You Know Who I Am," a retrospective about the plight of the country with gospel background vocals. Funky guitar riffs along with a full horn section, complement Wilson's vocals quite well on the Giles, Jones, Wilson number "Got To Bring It With You." "That Is The Way We Roll," another Wilson tune, delivers a steady guitar groove with a wah-wah pedal and distorted vocals and harp for effect. Steve Gomes offers his individual song writing skills on "Diamonds Won't Kiss You Back." With the support of the full horn section and the core band once again, it is a tune tailor made for Kim’s vocals. The original four members of the writing team also add the soulful closing song "Lonely Highway." In dramatic fashion, Wilson keeps searching that dark and lonely stretch of highway, looking for the life he once had.

On The Verge is the 12th studio album and establishes a significant change from their last 2005 release with Nick Curran supporting Kim Wilson on guitar. With this new sense of direction, it appears the Fabulous Thunderbirds are truly "on the verge" of great things to come. 

Reviewed by Rick Davis

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