The publicity surrounding this album has compared it to classic Stax soul releases but although it has the brass and the Steve Cropper-style guitar for me it doesn't have the magic of those great Memphis tracks. This certainly isn't the raw blues of the classic early Thunderbirds, or the rock blues that produced their later chart hits. Nowadays the Fabulous Thunderbirds are just Kim Wilson on vocals and harp and a backing band - in this case guitarists Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller, bassist Randy Bermudes, Jason Moeller on drums and co-producer Kevin Ankers on keyboards. I really liked 'High water' from 1997 which was a really modern-sounding Little Axe-style record which I thought was a real step forward for Kim but only the bluesy 'Lonely highway' has elements of that sound, with its restrained brass and Kim's nice harp.
I didn't think that the songs here (mainly written by Kim and Kevin Ankers) were good enough - a bit too many mid-tempo laid-back songs that sounded flat and very similar. There are only three songs with harp on, including 'That's the way we roll' where Kim sings through the harp mike to give a funky distorted sound and 'Too much water' not a Hurricane Katrina song but referring to "too much water under the bridge" of a relationship. Kim's voice is really strong throughout but I didn't think that the songs' melodies gave him enough to work with, although I did like the funky 'Runnin' from the blues' with its classic soul guitar and the preachy ballad 'Do you know who I am' with its soulful backing vocals. I do hope that this record grows on me but at the moment I'm afraid that it just sounds rather ordinary albeit with a few stand out tracks.
Great songs, well played and beautifully sung with Kim Wilson's rich, expressive vocals upfront. What more could a person want? The Fabulous Thunderbirds make a welcome return with their Severn Records debut. Rhythm 'n' Blues with soul!! However, if you want to hear the band really rockin' out catch them 'live' when they eventually get to the U.K. Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller and both outstanding guitarists. You'll be amazed!