Vocalist still rolling along with Thunderbirds

Members of the Fabulous Thunderbirds have come and gone since the band was formed in 1974, but there has been one constant, vocalist Kim Wilson, the lone original member of the act.

"This group is my passion," Wilson said. "I don't see any reason to stop being part of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. I know how many people have come and gone and I can't do much about that. All I can do is keep things going with this band. We're a working band that loves to tour."

The blues-rockers are also comfortable in the studio. The Fabulous Thunderbirds recently completed their first album in five years. Not yet titled, the disc will be previewed when the band performs Sunday at the Wichita River Festival.

"This album is a little different," Wilson said during a phone interview from California. "There is rock and the blues but there is also some soul and a little more R&B than you might expect. This time, I think we're a little more sophisticated. You'll know what I mean when we get to Kansas. You have to hear the music to get what I'm talking about."

Count on the Fabulous Thunderbirds to mix the new with the old hits, including "Tuff Enuf" and "Wrap It Up." What you can't predict is the order in which the songs will be performed; the Fabulous Thunderbirds never make up a set list.

"We've never planned anything out," Wilson said. "A big part of what we do is improvise. I give the band signals so they know what song is coming next. I just feel what's happening with us and the crowd and that's how I know what's appropriate to play. That makes it as fresh as can be."

The only certainty in this year of reunions (Public Image, Faith No More, Soundgarden) is that the original Thunderbirds will never get back together. Wilson doesn't see any future jams with former Fab Thunderbird guitar hero Jimmie Vaughan.

"None of that is likely," he said. "It would just be difficult in so many ways. I can't look back and hope to recapture those days again. There's no point to it. I'm with a great band that I really enjoy performing with. I don't have a void to fill. I'm doing exactly what I want to do. How many people can say that about their job?"

If you go

fabulous thunderbirds

What: Wichita River Festival performance by the blues-rock band

Where: West Bank Stage

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday during the Rockin' on the River concert. Opening acts Front Porch Blues and The Funk Brothers will perform beginning at 4 p.m.

How much: $10 plus a festival button