Back in 1979, while the new-wave assault on the pop world was in full force, a surprise package arrived from the realm of roots music. The Fabulous Thunderbirds' debut LP, Girls Go Wild, generated an excitement among many blues fans on a par with that brought on by the first couple of Paul Butterfield albums more than a decade before.
It had been a while since white boys strutted authentic bare-bones R&B and blues with the style and authority of this Austin foursome. Harmonica player Kim Wilson emerged as an exquisite throwback vocalist as well as a monster on his "horn." And though guitarist Jimmie Vaughan's kid brother would later rule as the blues-rock guitar god, Jimmie himself was a master of minimalism. The band caught the ears of then-hot producers Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, and subsequent discs were dosed with roots-rock as well as bluesy fare. The '80s proved amenable to the T-Birds' stripped-down sound; they met with MTV airplay and chart success with the single "Tuff Enuff" in 1986 and a spot on the soundtrack for the 1988 Tom Cruise pic Cocktail. Vaughan left at the end of the decade and Wilson carried on, blowing critically heralded "straight" blues as a solo artist while maintaining the T-Birds' diversity. The current lineup -- Wilson, Troy Gonyea (guitar), Ronnie Holt (bass), Jimi Bolt (drums), and Gene Taylor (keyboards) -- promises high energy and should run true to form.