Kim Wilson has been a major player since the first Fabulous Thunderbirds record was released nearly 25 years ago. A powerful singer and inventive harmonica player, his work with the T-Birds has always been jam packed with chops and heart, but he really comes alive on work released under his own name. Lookin' For Trouble (M.C. Records) is more than just ample evidence of that fact, it’s a masterwork that exemplifies Wilson’s art better than any previous outing.
On the driving title tune, co-written by Wilson and Amanda Taylor, the band cuts a major league groove, and the intensity doesn’t let up for the following 14 tunes.
“I’m Being Tortured” features soulful vocals, exquisite harmonica, tight horn charts and sizzling guitar. This is why the disc is so impressive. The sound is steeped in the tradition, the production is clean and unencumbered and the musicians that Wilson surrounds himself with (guitarist Troy Gonyea, keyboardist Mark Stevens, bassist Jon Ross and either Steve Ramsey or Richard Innes on drums, buoyed by Sax Gordon, Doug James and Scott Aruda on horns) are unquestionably up to the task.
Loaded with highlights, the disc is chock-full of jaw-dropping music that swings and rocks and fills the speakers with non-stop musical excitement. The swinging take on Willie Dixon’s “Love My Baby” is impressive, and the even more swinging Dave Batholomew classic “Hook, Line & Sinker” is a knock out.
There are other equally impressive covers in the mix, though the majority of the treats here come from Wilson’s own pen. “Hand to Mouth” has a slow grinding Howlin’ Wolf feel and a universal theme. “Hightime” is a rug-cutter of a tune that defies the listener to keep their feet still. “Hurt On Me,” built on the foundation of a walking bass, is a medium tempo boogie that is straight out of the 1940s, and the instrumental “Love Attack” recalls Little Walter.
As Wilson says in the John Swenson-written liners, he’s recording modern music in the style of the classics. “If I’m the last person out there making records like this, so be it.”
Fortunately, there are a lot of musicians who continue to pay homage to the tradition. Not a lot do it as well as Mr. Wilson. This is just a blast.
--- Mark E. Gallo
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