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Thunder & Lightnin’ plans Earth Day CD release of ‘Call of the Wild’


Thunder & Lightnin’ is made up of (from left) Steve Estes, Belita Mullinax, and Rob Gibbs. (Photo by Vyto Starinskas)

Thunder & Lightnin’ is made up of (from left) Steve Estes, Belita Mullinax, and Rob Gibbs. (Photo by Vyto Starinskas)


Originally Published: April 8, 2019 9:25 p.m.

At first glance, Thunder & Lightnin’s CD release on Saturday, April 20, at The Grasshopper Grill would seem to simply celebrate the band’s second studio album, “Call of the Wild”. The event, scheduled to coincide with Earth Day, 2019, celebrates that and a whole lot more.

Heard previously only in live performances, the album’s original tunes arrive through two routes of inspiration. One, being a call for original songs to match the theme of an event at which Thunder & Lightnin’ performed in concert. Second is the combined life experiences of band members in matters focusing on the importance and beauty of nature.

In October of 2018, the Sedona based Plan B Foundation engaged Thunder & Lightnin’ to perform in concert as part of its ”Call of the Wild” event at Tlaquepaque.

The foundation seeks to protect, preserve and rescue wolves and wolfdogs. Given the band’s grassy roots-Americana bent, Thunder & Lightnin’ was a perfect fit. Equally fitting, band members Steve Estes and Rob Gibbs set out to create original songs of wolves and wildlife for the show.

The wolf tunes “You Afraid of Me?” and “Call of the Wild” were a hit at the concert and comprise two of the tracks on the album.

Some days later, band members re-visited their various nature and environmental callings, leading them to this CD project.

Bassist Tom Wehr, founded his university’s environmental club which observed the first Earth Day in 1970, and as a multi-term elected township supervisor forged new programs in recycling and nature-friendly zoning.

Banjoist Gibbs dedicated his professional career working as park naturalist and wildlife ecologist for the Maryland National Capital Park.

Estes’ graduate degree emphasizes environmental policy leading to membership on the county’s Water Advisory Committee (WAC) and as board director for number of Verde Valley non-profit organizations. Combined, these form the underpinnings of passion that informs the band’s rural and roots sound.

Featuring Thunder & LIghtnin’s rich harmonies with its signature banjo, fiddle, and guitar presentation, the album covers a lot of nature’s ground.

The folksy “Could There be a Better Place” is a creation of Gibbs’ long-time friend and former bandmate Ray Schmitt. Estes’ “Torrente Verde” explores the importance and challenges facing the Verde River.

His “Throughput Thrill” speaks of the Amazonian rainforest. Gibb’s “Clear Water” visits mountain streams of yesteryear and today. The packaging is eco-friendly and contains six panels of bios, photos and lyrics.

Thunder & Lightnin’ is staying with its tradition of holding special events at its place of founding, The Grasshopper Grill in Cornville.

The band, per custom, will perform the album live in a special set as ordered on the CD. Another tradition observed is everyone joining in the evening’s fun receives the CD free of charge.

Thunder & Lightnin’s Earth Day CD release party happens Saturday, April 20, at the Grasshopper Grill in Cornville from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

The Grasshopper Grill is located at located at 1160 S. Page Springs Road, Cornville. (928) 649-9211.