ZZ Top’s Remarkable Story Detailed in ‘That Little Ol’ Band From Texas’ (FILM REVIEW)


There’s an equalizing quality to the music of ZZ Top. No matter who you are or what you’re into, it’s difficult to deny the low country intensity of this Texas trio. There’s nothing precisely original about combining the sounds of country, blues, and rock but ZZ Top does so in a way that is undeniable. Just look at “La Grange.” That opening riff alone has gone down as one of the most memorable and raucous rock and roll openings of all time, and it serves as a kind of metaphor for the band itself.

They’re a simple band, playing simple music, but they’re earnest and impossible to ignore. They haven’t changed terribly much over the five decades of their existence (well, the 80s aside, but who didn’t leave the 80s unscathed?) and have built a rabid fan base thanks to their brand of pure rock magic.

A new documentary, That Little Ol’ Band From Texas, from director Sam Dunn, explores the history of ZZ Top from their inauspicious beginnings as just some dudes from Texas to international superstars and rock and roll icons. Featuring new interviews with Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard, Dunn takes a deep look at the history of rock’s most consistent and long-lasting trio.

The history of ZZ Top intersects nicely with the history of pop rock in the 20th century, so any look at the band is, almost necessarily, also a kind of examination of the movements of rock through the 60s and beyond. To that end, the soundtrack is laced with the sounds that defined the eras not just of ZZ Top but of rock and roll music in general. Backed by archival footage, Dunn allows the band to tell their own story and history in ways that are remarkably revealing.

While the film certainly doesn’t break any new ground in terms of the musical documentary, it doesn’t necessarily need to. The familiar framework works well for a band such as ZZ Top and is the kind of no frills take on the band that matches their take on music. ZZ Top are raw and unrelenting in their simplicity, capturing a kind of blues based spirit that defines so much of music from the latter half of last century.

It almost doesn’t make sense that a band like ZZ Top would become as influential as they are, but simplicity has always been the cornerstone of rock. Dunn captures interviews from a wide array of musicians who speak to the lasting influence of the band. The likes of Josh Homme, Steve Miller, and Dan Auerbach all drop in to discuss the legacy of the band, and it’s not hard to see where ZZ Top influenced all those musicians.

That Little Ol’ Band From Texas probably won’t win any new fans, but a band like ZZ Top doesn’t necessarily need to. Not with a documentary, anyway. They’ve always let the music speak for itself and anyone who finds their way to the music—which is everyone—can hear for themselves who they are. Still, Dunn captures some amazing stories from the trio from across their half century career. For fans, this is about as intimate as you can get with the band who remains, even today, with all their acclaim and all their fans, just a little ol’ band from Texas.

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