Another album today with sentimental feelings for multiple reasons, today we have “Tres Hombres” by ZZ Top. First off, I have to pay tribute to Dusty Hill, bass player and second vocalist for the band, who recently moved on to that little Texas beer bar in the sky. Dusty always dropped a mean bass line, and added some fantastic vocal compliments to lead Billy Gibbons on every album, including this one. This album has added significance for me as well, as it always takes me back to 10th grade and my good friend John, who consistently played this cassette in his seemingly indestructible Datsun B210.
This album, which may be their best overall collection, opens with the connected song combination of “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago”. Just like “Heartbreaker” and “Living Loving Maid” or “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions”, you can’t hear one without the other. In particular, the second song, “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, reinforces what an oddly amazing singer Billy Gibbons is, in addition to being one hell of a guitar player. His raspy, bluesy voice can sing a deep baritone or soulful tenor with such a unique, rough and raw sound. He really is an underrated performer on every album.
Two more songs on side one really stand out, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” and “Hot, Blue and Righteous”. The first is a fast-paced rocker, the second a bluesy ballad, but both feature Dusty Hill’s complimenting vocals as a perfect blend to Gibbons. I love both of these songs, such a great intersection of guitars and microphones.
Side two is also strong from beginning to end, there are no weak links on this album, but two stand out for me. The first is perhaps their most hard-driven hit, “LaGrange”, which as we discussed previously, is the latest reconfiguration of an old John Lee Hooker riff. As usual, Gibbons is remarkable on this song, both on guitar and his limited vocal lines. If you want a special treat, look up the time the band played this song on the Howard Stern show. The mix and production is perfect, and Gibbons is at his dirty best.
The other song on this side I really love is “Sheik”, a funky track about a Sheik from Mozambique, who led me to the Congo. Even more than the big hits on this album, I associate this with being up to no good with John after school. Good memories, the best of times, even when we didn’t always make the best of decisions.
RIP Dusty Hill, thanks for a lifetime of good music and amazing memories…