At some point years ago, the number of white blues bands hit critical mass. The sheer novelty of the phenomenon had faded, and standing out from the pack got a whole lot harder. While many outfits possessed a suitable B.B. King or Little Walter surrogate and could cover and copycat the masters well enough, few had strong personalities of their own.
But thanks in large part to the throwback vocal persona of co-founder and blues-harp ace Kim Wilson, the Fabulous Thunderbirds quickly distinguished themselves from their blues-rock brethren when they emerged upon the national scene in 1979. Over the following two decades, Wilson has delivered vintage fare with a confidence and authority that's more reflective of his blues forebears than of his contemporaries.
The T-Birds' ability to ground themselves equally in blues, R&B, and roots rock without diluting their identity, coupled with their high-energy delivery, has helped them do what few acts of their type have ever done: make an impact on the pop charts. Due out in a few weeks, the band's latest, Painted On, is packed with material that evokes every phase of the T-Birds' history, from those hit-record days in the '80s and their rock romps with Nick Lowe to their blues beginnings in Austin.