ZZ Top returns to Aspen, and thats not all | AspenTimes.com

ZZ Top returns to Aspen, and thats not all

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy the Sanctuary Group

ASPEN Fans at the upcoming ZZ Top shows Dec. 28-29 at Belly Up Aspen can pretty much count on getting the Texas power trios hits: the older, bluesier songs La Grange and Tush, and the slightly poppier 80s fare Gimme All Your Lovin and Sharp Dressed Man. But those in attendance might also catch some fresh tracks as well.The bands website confirms the reports of a new album in the works. In fact, the sites banner headline screams: New Record. New Everything. Not exactly true, however. ZZ Top remains the same three rockers who first got together in 1969, in Houston: singer-guitarist Bill Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill, and the misnamed (or mis-facial-haired) drummer Frank Beard, the only member without a significant growth from his chin. Apparently the sound will not be exactly new, either: Word has it that the band is aiming to approximate their pre-80s sound.And who better to help them resurrect their recording career than Rick Rubin? Not only does the producer sport a beard that is in tune with the band, but the L.A. producer has developed a reputation for taking older, undervalued artists Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and coaxing late-era, stripped-down gold out of them. Also on board, on the songwriting side: the acclaimed Ohio duo the Black Keys, who know something about meat-and-potatoes blues-rock.Also being dusted off for holiday-time Belly Up appearances: songstress Dionne Warwick (Friday, Dec. 26); and another 80s rock mainstay, Foreigner (Dec. 27). Of the two, Warwick has been the more active, at least in terms of generating new material. Why We Sing, her album of newly recorded gospel-pop, was released this past spring. Foreigner also released an album this year: No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner, a compilation spiced up with one new song (perhaps the aptly titled, Too Late) and three live versions of old songs, as performed by the latest line-up.Foreigner hasnt released an album of all new material since 1994s Mr. Moonlight. No End in Sight might refer to the bands wealth of greatest-hits collections: 10 of them. No kidding.The blues-rock power trio thing championed by ZZ Top may be forever associated with the late 60s/early 70s. But there has been some modern revival of the genre, and the Belly Up is offering a few tastes.First up is Rose Hill Drive, whose Saturday, Dec. 20 show will do little to dispel that retro notion. The gig will feature the young Boulder trio playing all of the 1969 classic Led Zeppelin II. The show should be rounded with material from Rose Hill Drives own recent release, Moon Is the New Earth, which stretches the power trio idea in various directions.Big Head Todd and the Monsters, another Colorado band with its roots in power trio, plays a two-night stand, Jan. 2-3, at Belly Up. The band whose latest album is the online release, All the Love You Need existed for years as a trio, headed by singer-guitarist Todd Park Mohr. They have since added a keyboard slot, currently filled by Jeremy Lawton. The North Mississippi Allstars, whose trio sound leans closer to the blues, returns for a Belly Up gig on Jan. 28. The bands last appearance, an outdoors show in Snowmass last winter, was interrupted, and then cut short, by repeated power outages onstage. But when they did play, it was electrifying, especially guitarist Luther Dickinson, who just keeps improving.It is a very different kind of trio being presented by Belly Up on Jan. 17: the Lyle Lovett Trio, led by the iconic Texas singer-songwriter. And it is at a very different venue: the Wheeler Opera House.Rounding out Belly Ups holiday schedule: Dutch superstar spinner Tisto (Sunday, Dec. 21); funk outfit Karl Densons Tiny Universe (Tuesday, Dec. 23); Jamaican bassist Fully Fullwood, celebrating the legacy of Peter Tosh (Thursday, Dec. 25); and hip-hopper/ actor Mos Def (Dec. 30). New Years Eve has DJ Z-Trip. And dont forget the tribute acts: Cashd Out, resurrecting the songs of Johnny Cash (Monday, Dec. 22); and Wild Child, reprising the music of the Doors and the antics of Jim Morrison on Jan. 1.Other notable stuff further on down the road: Middle American rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed (Jan. 4); funk great George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic (Jan. 9); reggae-rockers Pepper (Jan. 10-11); newgrass innovator Sam Bush (who also knows a think about reggae (Jan. 14); singer-saxophonist Femi Kuti, the son of Nigerian legend Fela Kuti (Jan. 20); the Pretenders (Feb. 25); and an acoustic show by peace poet-singer, Michael Franti (March 6 ).Over at the Wheeler Opera House, theyre busy adding high-profile shows.Banjoist-singer Abigail Washburn makes her Aspen debut at the Wheeler on Feb. 7, with her Sparrow Quartet. If those names arent familiar enough, how about fellow banjoist Bla Fleck, who is a featured member of Washburns band? Singer-keyboardist Randy Newman, whose album Harps and Angels is showing up on numerous best of 2008 lists, is set for March 7. Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn returns to the Wheeler April 7.Previously announced Wheeler attractions include local singer John Oates (Dec. 27); cabaret star Bernadette Peters (Dec. 29); Texas roots rocker Robert Earl Keen (Jan. 10); and the trio of folk-rock string men Chris Hillman, John McEuen & Herb Pedersen (Jan. 31).Theres more. Im sure you can find it on your own. Keep on rockin in the ski world.stewart@aspentimes.com

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