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ZZ Top – 2012 New Album Preview

ZZ Top
Tom Pennington, Getty Images

They were in the studio pretty regularly throughout the ’70s and ’80s, but lately, ZZ Top has been focusing on its live shows — in fact, they haven’t released a studio album since 2003′s ‘Mescalero.’ But after nearly six years of work, it looks like fans will finally get to hear some new material from the Texas power trio in 2012. We know we’re going to hear plenty of loud guitars and old-school electric blues boogie on the band’s 15th LP, but what else do we know about the as-yet untitled collection?

Band members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard have been talking about their next record since 2006, when they ended their 12-year association with RCA Records and left manager Bill Ham, who’d been with them since 1969. Despite all those shakeups, it sounds like the guys are sticking close to their roots on the new set, which is being produced by Rick Rubin and will be the first under their new deal with Rubin’s Columbia-owned American Recordings imprint.

“We are putting the finishing touches on it now and expect to have it out in March or April of next year,” wrote the band on its Facebook page last August. “We know you’ve waited a long time for it, but have a feelin’ it will be well worth the wait!”

Earlier in the summer, Gibbons described the new songs to Mojo Magazine by saying, “It sounds and feels like ‘Tres Hombres,’ with a few elements of the ‘Eliminator’ period thrown in. A pretty wide range, from basic blues to slightly more fancy stuff.”

Later, Gibbons sat down with Rolling Stone’s David Fricke to talk about the album, saying, “The good news is that under the direction of Rick Rubin, ZZ Top has stepped into a new arena with a very understanding producer.”

He went on to talk about how the band’s touring schedule has necessitated quick bursts of studio activity — which has, in turn, kept the new recordings pretty basic. “When you add up the days in the studio, it hasn’t allowed us much time to do much else than plug straight into an amp and play as a trio. We’re not afraid to experiment when time allows, but these are things that don’t normally pop up in a ZZ session. It’s just, go in and get it.”

Although the new album’s release date remains a nebulous ‘early 2012,’ listeners got a taste of the record when the band let astronauts play the new track ‘Flyin’ High’ on their way to the International Space Station. (Said Gibbons, “We figured it’d be the perfect song to pass along.”) Other songs expected to make the final cut include ‘Chartreuse,’ the B.B. King-inspired ‘Have A Little Mercy,’ and ‘More Slower Blues,’ which Gibbons describes as “simply one chord that never stops.”

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