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Music Review: 'Perfectamundo,' Billy Gibbons

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And now, a familiar voice strikes out on his own.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZZ TOP SONG, "LA GRANGE")

CORNISH: That's ZZ Top, the legendary bearded blues rock trio led by singer and guitarist Billy Gibbons. Gibbons has been playing with his two band mates since 1969, but he's just released his first solo album. It's called "Perfectamundo." Meredith Ochs has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILLY GIBBONS AND THE BFG'S SONG, "GOT LOVE IF YOU WANT IT")

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: With a ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons is known to push musical boundaries. In the 1980s, experimenting with contemporary sounds brought the band its greatest commercial success, and their most recent album featured an homage to Houston hip-hop. So it's not surprising that Gibbons' solo debut is full of surprises - Afro-Cuban rhythms, all sorts of percussive elements, and even auto-tune, which he uses to manipulate his voice for artistic effects.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOT LOVE IF YOU WANT IT")

BILLY GIBBONS: (Singing) Quit teasing me baby, with your fine diamond ring. If you let me love you baby, I'll be your loving man.

OCHS: It took almost five decades for Billy Gibbons to release a solo album, but he draws on some of his earliest musical influences. As a teenager, his dad sent him to New York City to study with legendary percussionist Tito Puente. Gibbons easily works the mambo and cha-cha he learned from Puente into the blues and boogie he spent a lifetime perfecting.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PICKIN' UP CHICKS ON DOWLING STREET")

GIBBONS: (Singing) I was pickin' up chicks on Dowling Street.

OCHS: Billy Gibbons' distinct guitar sound characterizes everything he does, but he says he wanted his album not to be like a ZZ Top album. Borrowing from the world of Latin music to accomplish this is an inspired choice. For Gibbons, who's immersed in the melting pot of Texas music and culture, it's a natural fit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAL Y PIMIENTO")

GIBBONS: (Singing) Sal y pimiento. Sal y pimiento. Sal y pimiento.

CORNISH: Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at Sirius XM. She reviewed "Perfectamundo" by Billy Gibbons. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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