The Fabulous Thunderbirds - On the Verge
Not many bands can lay claim to having been around for more than 30 years and still have stayed true to the musical principals that guided them at their inception. One of that select group are The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who are still delivering their own brand of understated, groove focused blues on their latest release entitled On the Verge.
There is something about the Thunderbirds. They’ve never been one of those bands that slap you in the face with hard hitting, hyped up numbers from the moment you spin their albums. Instead they come softly, insinuating themselves softly into your psyche with an incessant funky groove that may not have the initial impact of SRV and his ilk, but that, ultimately will last a lot longer. That’s something that hasn’t ever changed, the albums exist in their own right, they’re individuals, and the records made when Jimmie Vaughan was the guitar slinger are very different from this latest release, but that same incessant desire to tap your feet is just as present.
Things here are at their strongest when the band are at their most bluesy, Runnin’ From the Blues is an excellent piece and Kim’s harmonica and voice have only gotten better as he’s aged. The forays into more soul influenced numbers also work well, though are a little weaker, to my ears, than the more straight ahead blues numbers. In any case the album has the dirty shuffle funk that you associate with the Thunderbirds at their best, and the occasional weaker moments don’t detract from the whole impression that this is a band that have somehow managed to still be on form this long since their initial successes.
It’s important to note that the fact that the album isn’t an in your face experience doesn’t mean that what you end up with is a bland affair. In addition to Kim’s harp and vocals there are brilliant musical performances turned in all round, especially by the drummer and guitar player. They are definitely a tight unit whose long experience together pays off, and the production lets you readily hear the individuals and their distinct contributions.
You may think I’ve overused some words in this review, but groove, understated and subtle are pretty much the textbook definition of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. With On The Verge being a definitive example of their recorded work those are the things that stand out, the sense of groove, the understated musicianship and the subtle delivery are what makes this album as good as it is. If you came here looking for flash, fireworks and spectacle you won’t find it, but if you value songs above theatre and emotion above flare then you won’t fail to have a good time.