It's easy to see how people might have gotten the wrong idea about the continued health of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. After all, guitarist Jimmie Vaughan had left the band, singer/harmonica player Kim Wilson was touring behind a solo album, and the group's last release was a greatest hits collection. Taken together, it looked as if the T-Birds were on its last legs.
"Absolutely untrue," says Wilson, over the phone from Colorado. "That's what they get for assuming."
Indeed, the band is not only back with a new lineup, but it sounds even more fabulous than ever. "Roll of the Dice," the group's new album, is its best since "Tuff Enuff," thanks both to Danny Kortchmar's empathetic production and guitarist Kid Ramos' sly, soulful solos. Like most of the T-Birds' albums, it draws heavily from the blues but rounds that out with generous helpings of R&B;, boogie and rock -- not to mention an awesome remake of "Zip a Dee Do Dah."
Moreover, Wilson reports that the current tour is the most enjoyable he can recall. "The chemistry is really better than it has been, ever," he says. "I can deal with people I'm not crazy about on the road, if they're good players. But it's nice when you've got people that you actually like.
"These guys are just fabulous players. Kid Ramos is really something. He can do it all."
"Doing it all" is an important part of the T-Birds' aesthetic. As Wilson puts it, the band's sound "is kind of an alloy of all kinds of different music. All the music that we've loved. I mean, it's really just a natural thing to us, not really something that we've concentrated on doing.
"I'm not going to call this record blues at all," he adds. "There are some definite blues influences, but it's just music. It's a combination of a lot of different kinds [of music], all mixed up together. But it has the essence of that blues music, and that's what makes it legitimate."
Wilson stresses that point because he worries about the way many rock fans see the blues. "My worst nightmare really happened in blues music," he says. "It's where all these famous rock guys step in and go, 'Well, I think I'm going to play blues now.' It has made it to where people don't know what the real thing is. That's very upsetting."
Still, Wilson is more than happy about the way things are going for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. After recording the new album and spending some time on the road with the new guys, he feels his group has genuinely increased its musical stature. "There's much more assertiveness and maturity, if you want to call it that," he says. "You know, a lot of people have said a lot of [complimentary] things over the years; people like Muddy Waters, and B.B. [King], and Buddy Guy. But my goals are so high. I really want to be respectable in that very highest of peer groups, and I feel like, just now, I've kinda busted through the basement of it."
When: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 9 p.m.
Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 563-7220 for information