ZZ Top has plans to put out new music with the band’s longtime guitar technician Elwood Francis filling in for the late Dusty Hill, who passed away in 2021, guitarist Billy F. Gibbons announced in an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock.

The band will first release a new live album, Raw, which was recorded with Dusty during the making of the band’s 2019 documentary, That Little Ol’ Band From Texas, at Gruene Hall—the longest running live music venue and dance hall in Texas. Due to be released on July 8th, the album will feature a mix of classic tunes and lesser-heard songs like “Certified Blues” and “Brown Sugar”, both from the band’s 1971 debut, ZZ Top’s First Album.

The band also has plans to work on new music with Elwood Francis, who served as the outfit’s guitar tech for over 30 years, on bass. Asked about the transition, Gibbons said it was Dusty who recommended Francis for the position.

“I credit Dusty,” he said. “Not only was he a great performer and a great friend, he had a thread of wisdom. When he was feeling a bit out of sorts, he requested going to see his physician. He said, ‘Listen, if I’m late getting back to the gig, make sure that Elwood, our guitar technician, wraps his hands around my guitar.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ He said, ‘Look, he’s more than a family member. He’s been a solid standby for over three decades.’ He is adding to five decades of a rather serious side of making loud sounds. He falls right in. It’s kind of an interesting twist, but the balance remains. We’re crazy characters, almost cartoon-like, but at the bottom of it, we’re all very dedicated and serious on the musical level.”

Francis has already performed live with ZZ Top. Gibbons described the emotional tone of the band’s first shows without Dusty.

“The emotions were running high,” he said. “To Elwood’s credit, he made certain that Dusty was in an ethereal sense still present during the experience. Elwood grabbed Dusty’s hat and placed it on the microphone and made sure that there was a point of relation through the whole night. You know, I think he took it in stride. He certainly accepted Dusty’s directive. It was, ‘Hey Elwood, grab the guitar.’ He said, ‘Okay, listen, I’m the hired gun. If that’s the direction, I gotta take it.'”

Asked about the band’s plans to put out new music beyond Raw, Gibbons said making new music “would be an interesting excursion into the unknown—particularly with Elwood holding down the bottom end.” He continued, “We’ve got the makings of a band that is partially the tried-and-true longstanding experience with something so fresh, and [there’s] kind of uncharted territory that’s being broken. We find it rather intriguing. It’s a calling that has us grinning from start to finish.”

Watch ZZ Top perform “Brown Sugar” and “La Grange” live at Gruene Hall (from the film That Little Ol’ Band From Texas) below.

ZZ Top – “Brown Sugar” (Live)

ZZ Top – “La Grange”

[Video: STAGES]

[h/t Ultimate Classic Rock]