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Sept 8 , 2011
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Wilson pushes The Fabulous Thunderbirds to soar to new musical heights
The Fabulous Thunderbirds open for Los Lobos on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino. Tickets are $19-$39 through Ticketmaster.

By Michael Swanger

As it goes for a seminal band like The Fabulous Thunderbirds with 36 years and a few lineup changes under its wings, there is a temptation to invest copious amounts of time and energy revisiting the past. Kim Wilson, the band's lone remaining founding member and leader, however, is not one of them.

Perhaps more so than ever before, the 60-year-old singer, songwriter and harmonica player is focused on the band's future, specifically its musical evolution, as he continues to push The T-Birds to explore new artistic heights. When Wilson and Jimmie Vaughan formed the group in Austin, Texas, in 1975, The T-Birds were at the vanguard of a blues revival that they would help usher in during the 1980s with a string of acclaimed albums like "What's the Word," "T-Bird Rhythm" and "Powerful Stuff." These days, The T-Birds incorporate a mix of roots styles that can best be described as "American music."

"The musical direction of the band started evolving late, and now we have this eclectic thing even more than we had before. Nothing against the previous players, they were all world-class players, but there's a desire to go in another direction and do what I like," said Wilson via telephone from his home in California. "I love the blues, it all starts there. But I like soul music, I like rock ‘n' roll, I like George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rockin' Sidney and Clifton Chenier, so that's where you go. It doesn't matter what kind of music you play if your objective is to move people and to do something for their souls. This lineup, especially, is able to facilitate those different directions for me more than anyone else has."

Long gone are fellow founding members Vaughan, Mike Buck and the late Keith Ferguson, as well as a revolving door of talented substitutes over the decades including Fran Christina, Preston Hubbard, Kid Bangham, David "Kid" Ramos, Gene Taylor, Kirk Fletcher, Ronnie James Weber and Nick Curran. For the last three years, The T-Birds' lineup has remained unchanged and includes Wilson leading a pack of talented young Texas musicians like guitarists Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller, bassist Randy Bermudes and drummer Jay Moeller.

"These guys have been coming to my shows since they were teenagers," Wilson said. "They have a real reverence for the past and a respect for it, but they have their own thing. That's something I demand from a musician, that you have your own voice. I'm not interested in this cookie cutter stuff where you're compartmentalizing someone else and calling it improvising. I'm interested in people who are going to let it fly and are not gonna be boring, because I can't stand predictability. I hate it."

Wilson also credits the new lineup for its selfless musical ways.

"I've worked with great individuals over the years, but you have to have people who are willing to make sacrifices in that they might not get a solo for three songs," said Wilson with a hearty laugh. "These guys don't care about that shit; that's the beautiful thing."

The T-Birds are close to inking a new record deal after shopping its current independent release. Once that is completed, the band will return to the studio to produce some new material to add to it.

"We'll give ourselves some time and officially re-release our current album with some tweaks to it and maybe some different songs," Wilson said.

Despite having sold more than 20 million albums with The T-Birds, Wilson said there is always room for improvement in the studio and onstage.

"You work hard your whole life towards this standard you have for yourself, and mine is Muddy Waters and B.B. King and guys like that, so obviously it's going to take me my whole life to even get close to that," he said. "But you still try to get better at what you do every day, pure and simple." CV


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