The Fabulous T-Birds show they are indeed Tuff Enuff

By Tim Craig

On April 27, The Fabulous Thunderbirds reissued Tuff Enuff, the band’s 1986 album that featured the Top 10 hit of the same name, as well as the follow-up “Wrap It Up,” penned by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

I put The Fabulous Thunderbirds in the same space as Huey Lewis and the News. Huey Lewis was able to capture mega-stardom with a three-album run from 1982-1986 by sticking to a straightforward blues-based rock of guitar, drums, harmonica and organ – the instruments of the “working man.” The Fabulous Thunderbirds are well-versed in that same musical ground, though with a dash of Tex-Mex that belies the band’s Texas roots.

The difference between Huey Lewis’ ubiquity and The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ one-hit status could be as simple as this: Huey Lewis had two songs in the Back to the Future soundtrack; The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ were featured in the Gung Ho soundtrack.

Of course, there are other differences. It could be argued that Huey Lewis’ brand of straight blues rock paved the way for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, but I’m sticking to the soundtrack theory. After all, Back to the Future grossed $210 million. Gung Ho: $36 million.

But that’s beside the point. It all comes down to the music. Tuff Enuff is exactly what you’d expect from a Texas blues band. From the macho-laced single “Tuff Enuff,” to the heartbroken, take-whatever-I’ll-get “Two Time My Lovin’,” to the forget-what-the-world-thinks anthem “Who Cares,” the album features 10 tracks that touch all of the staples of a great bar band. There are no tricks, no pyrotechnics, just solid music, literal lyrics, great guitar leads, fun harmonica fills and a dash of soul-searching organ to boot.

This is a great album to put on, turn up and walk away. You can pay attention – or not. Wherever you mentally drop back in will be satisfying.

After all, life is Tuff Enuff … good music doesn’t need to be.

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