In 2019, ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill was still alive, and filmmaker Sam Dunn brought us the critically acclaimed documentary That Little Ol’ Band from Texas. The film was cherished for a number of reasons, not least of which was the music, old and new. A big part of the film was seeing the modern-day ZZ Top jamming away on their classics. And it was clear they lost nothing.
With Dusty gone, it’s appropriate to release his final recordings as the soundtrack to the documentary. As the title boldly states, this is ZZ Top raw, playing live in the studio, as only they could. 12 tracks; nothing beyond Eliminator. Every song a classic.
Going back to the first album, “Brown Sugar” opens with some amp hiss and seriously bluesly licks from Billy Gibbons. Raw yes, but also crisp and clear with plenty of bottom end. These are not simple re-recordings, nor are they vastly different re-imaginings. They are just 12 tracks of ZZ Top playing hard and heavy, backed with modern equipment and techniques. The groove flows right through the speakers like jelly. Sonically the tracks are heavier simply because of the modern equipment, though they are still…you guessed it…raw! Dusty’s bass on “Just Got Paid”…oh man. Track after track of familiar rock will hit your ears, satisfying your need for that dirty greasy blues that ZZ Top peddle in. Jamming solos, rolling bass and luscious blues licks await within.
As far as surprises go, there are not many, but it is fun to hear “Legs” done in this raw settling. The sequencers are there but back in the mix. It’s much more rocking. Interesting to hear no backing guitars when Billy is soloing. “Gimme All Your Lovin'” benefits similarly from the raw treatment. No sequencers here, just guitars, drums and bass. No loss either. A slow jam version of “Thunderbird” is another treat. Finally, it’s a blast to hear Frank Beard playing hard on the surf rock of “Tube Snake Boogie”.
From rockers, to blues rockers and just plain ol’ blues, this album contains a nice cross section of songs from 1971 to 1983. Arguably, the essential years. While not essential itself, ZZ Top Raw should make your purchase list. It’s an excellent set of recordings, of some of the best ZZ Top songs, with modern fidelity and of course, the last of Dusty Hill. You loved it when you saw ZZ Top jamming these tunes in the film. Now you can own the soundtrack. So get on it!
Thanks to John T. Snow for kindly gifting this copy!