I’ve found, that in my 34 years experience on this revolving rock, that the best (read: only) way to experience Texas is through song. Personal politics aside (for now), Marty Robbins’ tenderly told ballad of haunting devastation, albeit now 55 years old, still manages to jerk a hidden tear or two from this sappy, heavyhearted lover of Western ballads.
Little more screams unquestionable masculinity than a gunfighter, dressed in black, poised and ready to maim a potential opponent, while he stands endlessly noble over a flamboyant (and there’s nothing wrong with that) sea of hot pink. Displayed on my vinyl-papered bedroom wall for years, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs successfully manages to steer that sturdy steed along the fine line between sensitivity and unchallenged storytelling. I know that for a lot of people, Western really isn’t their ideal choice for a hog-killin’ time, and believe me, I used to lasso that sentiment myself, but given the song’s history, coupled with the beautifully told ballad of lost love, I’ve concluded that, at least for me, El Paso is a legitimate cry from an otherwise worthless state.
I’d mistakenly written-off ZZ Top by the time I saw them at Alpine Valley in 2003. It took less than a minute into their first song for me to realize how strikingly wrong I had been about this Texas Blues-Rock band.
I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know about these guys. Yes, they formed in 1969. Yes, they’ve been around for over 40 years, yes they are still touring and yes, the three members have ALWAYS been Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (listed on the back of this album as Rube Beard). What I will impart on you is the desperate suggestion of not doing what I did. Don’t write-off this band without giving them a proper listen. This is 1973, and this is American Blues-Rock at its finest.
Tres Hombres (translates to “Three Men,” courtesy of The Prudent Groove) is ZZ Top’s first Top Ten record, and the band’s third release overall. Although ZZ Top’s First Album (1971) and Rio Grande Mud (1972) offered a glimpse of the unquestionable talents of these “Three Men,” it wasn’t until Tres Hombres and its soul-crushing hit, La Grange, that the music world saw just how incredible this Texas band was.
La Grange is a nonstop, blood-boiling staple of Blues inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s chock-full of hard-rocking fire with a groove so catchy, you’ll swear you’re hearing it blasting from a dead-silent room. If you ask me, ZZ Top never reached the creative watermark set by La Grange, but looking back at their extensive catalog throughout their 44-year existence, they’ve come pretty damn close a number of times.
Do yourself a favor and pay attention to those rumors spreading around about that brothel outside La Grange, Texas. Word has it they have a lot of nice girls-ah! Oh, and don’t forget a ten-spot for the door.