The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Strong Like That
Severn Records 2016
10 tracks; 41 minutes
Although credited to the T’Birds this is essentially a Kim Wilson solo album. Of the band who produced On The Verge in 2013 only Kim and guitarist Johnny Moeller remain and Johnny is the guitarist for the Severn house band anyway. The rest of the musicians are Kevin Anker on keys, Steve Gomes on bass and Robb Stupka on drums, with a horn section of Kenny Rittenhouse and Joe Donegan on trumpets, Antonio Orta on sax/flute and Bill Holmes on trombone. Guests include guitarists Anson Funderburgh and Roosevelt Collier (Lee Boys) and drummer Wes Watkins who appear on a track each. There are two Kim Wilson originals, one from Steve Gomes, two from the late Paul Kelly and five soul classics.
Nothing says soul louder than The Temptations and Kim’s slowed down version of “(You Know) I’m Losing You” works really well with Roosevelt’s slippery lap-steel and Kim’s harp playing round the core tune with Wes Watkins’ interesting drum work driving things along in a subtly funky way. The other soul classics all feature the horns, including a superb take on Eddie Floyd’s “I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)” with Johnny’s guitar perfect and a lovely horn arrangement, the full-blooded horn-led arrangement of “Somebody’s Getting It” (a hit for Johnnie Taylor), a grooving “Where’s Your Love Been?” (Sandra Rhodes) which has lots of guitar from Johnny and “Drowning On Dry Land” (written by Al Jackson and famously recorded by Albert King) which is anchored by Kevin Anker’s piano and organ work.
The two Paul Kelly tunes are placed together: “Don’t Burn Me” features Anson’s lead work on a funky number sung well by Kim who shows what a great voice he has for this sort of material; “You’re Gonna Miss Me” has Kim’s harp to the fore on another naggingly catchy funky number. Kim’s two contributions are “Smooth” which opens with Kim’s harp and has a definite Sam Cooke feel to these ears and “Meet Me On The Corner” which is perhaps the closest to a blues tune here with plenty of Kim’s tough harp work. The title track “Strong Like That” closes the album and is a typical Steve Gomes composition, a song that would fit well with other Severn ‘blue-eyed soul’ singers like Tad Robinson or Darrell Nulisch.
Those nostalgic for the early T’Birds sound will need to look away as this album, like its predecessor, is mainly soul; nevertheless, it should be judged on its merits and those are considerable.