|Studio album by ZZ Top|
|Released||September 8, 2003 (worldwide)
September 9, 2003 (United States)
Foam Box Recordings
(Houston, Texas, United States)
|Genre||Blues rock, hard rock|
|ZZ Top chronology|
Mescalero is the fourteenth studio album by the American rock band ZZ Top. It was released on September 8, 2003, as the band's final release for RCA Records. While the band still retained their foundation in blues rock, Mescalero explored genres like country and Tejano. Recording sessions took place at Foam Box Recordings in Houston, with the lead vocalist Billy Gibbons as producer.
Background and recording
In 1993, ZZ Top signed with RCA Records, which produced Antenna (1994), Rhythmeen (1996), and XXX, the latter of which marked the band's thirtieth anniversary and received mixed reviews from critics. They mostly toured in the years between XXX and Mescalero, visiting Australia, New Zealand and various countries in Europe. In 2002, the band performed at the annual RodeoHouston and with Brooks & Dunn on CMT Crossroads. They went on a short Casino Tour in the United States and European Tour.
In 2002, ZZ Top convened at Foam Box Recordings in Houston, a private studio owned by the band that was used to record XXX and Rhythmeen. Gibbons produced the project and wrote most of the songs, collaborating with the engineers Joe Hardy[disambiguation needed] and Gary Moon, as well as band members Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. A variety of instruments was used on Mescalero. After taking a lunch break at a Mexican restaurant, ZZ Top hired a father-and-son marimba duo from Chiapas, Mexico. They provided entertainment at the restaurant and were anxious to appear on a rock album. After explaining that there were only three chords involved, they played on the title track. James Harman played harmonica on "Que Lastima", a title meaning 'what a pity'.
Mescalero is centered around a variety of Tejano instrumentation including accordion, pedal steel guitar, and harmonica. The album often uses slide guitar and "fuzzy" bass guitar sounds. It opens with "Mescalero", a track with marimbas used throughout the entire song and a solo at the end. "Two Ways to Play" is a hard rock-inspired track in which Gibbons' guitar is tuned down a whole step from standard pitch. "Alley-Gator" made use of the accordion and a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop played by Gibbons. "Buck Nekkid" is a moderate swing, while "Goin' So Good" is a slow ballad on which Gibbons used a 1949 Fender Telecaster prototype and played Steve Cropper-tinged licks; he traded phrases in call and response form with a pedal steel guitar. "Me So Stupid" is a moderate rock with a clip of Gibbons' voice remaining constant throughout the track. Dusty Hill sang lead vocals on "Piece". Auto-Tune is used on Gibbons' vocals at several points on the album, most audibly on "What Would You Do", "Que Lastima" and "As Time Goes By".
The album depicts a skeleton wearing a sarape and a sombrero while drinking mescal in the desert. The skeleton appears to be shooting flames out of its mouth. The title, Mescalero, refers to a heavy mescal drinker.
Allmusic awarded the album two out of five stars, stating, "Apart from the dreadful misstep of 1999's XXX, they showed signs of life on all their RCA labeled albums, and their fourth, 2003's long delayed Mescalero, is no exception to the rule. Billy Gibbons' fat guitar tone really has some presence here, at least on some of the album, and there are enough rhythm tracks not performed to a didactic click track to provide some real swing."
Following Mescalero's release, ZZ Top embarked on the Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers Tour (April – November 2003). The tour spanned three months in the US with Ted Nugent (featuring drummer Tommy Aldridge and bassist Marco Mendoza) as the middle act, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd (with Double Trouble) as the opener, with a European leg visiting twelve countries and included a concert in Helsinki, Finland, as special guests with The Rolling Stones. After returning to the United States for more performances, ZZ Top appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; they played at the Compaq Center (previously known as The Summit); this was the last event to be held in the venue. The band continued touring to support Mescalero throughout summer 2004 and performed at the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
All songs written and composed by Billy Gibbons, except where noted.
|2.||"Two Ways to Play"||4:15|
|5.||"Goin' So Good"||5:34|
|6.||"Me So Stupid" (Gibbons, Joe Hardy, Gary Moon)||3:33|
|8.||"Punk Ass Boyfriend"||3:05|
|9.||"Stackin' Paper" (Gibbons, Hardy)||2:58|
|10.||"What Would You Do?"||3:03|
|11.||"What It Is Kid" (Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard)||4:13|
|13.||"Tramp" (Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin)||5:12|
|17.||"Sanctify" (Gibbons, Hill, Beard)||4:20|
|18.||"As Time Goes By" (Herman Hupfeld)||4:27|
- Billy Gibbons – guitar, vocals, producer
- Dusty Hill – bass guitar, backing vocals, lead vocal on "Piece"
- Frank Beard – drums, percussion
- Marimbas de Chiapas – marimba
- Dan Dugmore – pedal steel guitar
- James Harman – harmonica
- Joe Hardy[disambiguation needed] – engineer, mixing
- Gary Moon – mastering
- Steve Ralbovsky – A&R
- Ryk Maverick – album cover design
- Mike Waring – photography
Album – Billboard (North America)
|2003||The Billboard 200||57|