You’ll meet very few people who enjoy the desert setting complete with cacti, rattlesnakes and excruciating heat. But frontman of legendary Texas rock band ZZ Top, Bill Gibbons, seems to thrive in the environment. In his latest solo project, the guitarsmith shreds and hammers down a storybook tale involving thieves on the run. Hardware pieces together every inch of the western culture that’s exonerated a 60-year career.
Its desert theme, stemming from the studio’s location during production, notes the album’s main influence. As Gibbons stated, “The desert settings, replete with shifting sands, cacti and rattlesnakes makes for the kind of backdrop that lends an element of intrigue reflected in the sounds created out there.” Backed by former Guns N’ Roses drummer, Matt Sorum, the 12-tracks bring the desert to life. Nothing brings it more to a life then an accompanying music video for the track “Desert High”. Gibbons’ gravelly narration and slide guitar reverb highlight California’s Palm Springs scenery. While it’s a slow jam that has an easy trance to get lost in, Gibbons’ vocals drive the track while his guitar solos give an added boost. Its black-and-white music video offers just a glimpse into the album’s concept of a thirst-parched backdrop.
The surroundings wildlife and untamed nature offer heavy inspiration into the album’s main spotlight. As an opener, “My Lucky Card” is knockout of blues-rock that has Gibbons show-off what apexed a career of thundering riffs. Accompanied by fellow backing musician, Austin Hanks, the two guitarists trade solos in a quick duel of a track. The solid beat and dense vocals exemplify Gibbons’ presence as a tenured veteran. If its tight rhythm wasn’t enough to impress, Gibbons beer bottle slide guitar is sure to bend the mind in its music video. Filmed in one take at the Pappy & Harriet’s bar in California is a brow raising feature. But its clear cinematography and live production with effortless shredding engages the intrigue factor.
While the previous track offers the main highlight of Gibbons’ third outing, “She’s On Fire” is a stunner on the guitar. It comes as no surprise from an artist who’s built his legacy of producing timeless riffs that are instantly recognizable. For this track, it’s not much different. The lead singer’s mastery of the instrument is clean and crisp with his sleek solos. The tune is quick to ignite and burn out just as fast which leaves a little room for disappointment. But its saving grace derives from a hot take on the guitar with a little southern draw by Gibbons before fading out.
A short but heavy drive is a reoccurrence for the entire album which leaves room for occasional slow jams. The most impressive trait is the band’s ability to pick it up again after a droning intro. “West Coast Junkie” elevates these themes with a surf-rock inspired groove to its riffs. It may be a departure from Gibbons’ improvisational excellence on blues-driven beats. But it’s a tune that you can’t help but kick your feet to for the old school craze of 60s west coast music. Dick Dale probably didn’t envision his surf-rock style being tributed to by a bluesy master. It’s a well-paired formula, nonetheless.
With his album available across all streaming platforms, Hardware is chock full of quick-witted and episodic motifs. While it doesn’t encapsulate many surprises or hold many twists, it’s still nothing short of impressive and entertaining. The fierceness of other following tracks including: “Hey Baby, Que Paso” and “Stackin’ Bones” exhibit how Gibbons is still superb as a songwriter. His days on the road as part of his iconic band, ZZ Top is always held in comparison, no doubt. But the venture into solo territory displays that this Hall of Famer isn’t done making music. Fans can expect a seamless array of melodies that takes a quick scope of the desert’s harshness to embody each track. With Gibbons belting out the solos, it leaves wonder on why you wouldn’t want to turn it up and play it loud.
Written by Trenton Luber