Local Wire

ZZ Top @ Wild Horse Pass and Casino

How's this as a recipe for unmitigated disaster? Three exceedingly old white dudes head into the studio with the guy who produced the last Linkin Park album to record a blues version of a Southern rap classic by DJ DMD, Lil Keke, and Fat Pat called (seriously) "I Gotsta Get Paid." That the track, which opens ZZ Top's 15th studio effort, La Futura, is not a cringe-worthy, Shit My Dad Says moment, but instead is a headbanging, swampy rock 'n' roll classic, says something about the unlikely and enduring success of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard. The trio's 40-plus-year career is something to marvel at: Their early vinyl slabs oozed Texas BBQ sauce and dusty proto-metal flavor, while the '80s found the magnificently bearded (except drummer Beard) combo as unlikely MTV stars, armed with a fuzzy image that seemed at odds with their slick robo-rock. The distorted and funky La Futura was produced by Rick Rubin, perhaps the one guy with equal claim to the legacy of both Slayer and the Dixie Chicks, and features Rubin doing what he does best, encouraging bands to get to the core of what makes them tick without resorting to retro fetishism. Crunchy numbers like "Heartache in Blue" and "Flyin' High" combine bluesy melodies with swaggering attitude in a way befitting the band's classic material, all the while embracing the curious populist slant that earned the band a place in the hearts of mainstream fans and heartland rockers. No one does "implausible" quite like ZZ Top, and no one does it quite so well, either.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.