Another installment of the Frenchmen On Penn Series at Pittsburgh Winery, bringing the best music in New Orleans to Pittsburgh.
Great music begins with great songs, and great songs are what the Honey Island Swamp Band is all about. The band came together after Aaron Wilkinson (acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Chris Mule’ (electric guitar, vocals) were marooned in San Francisco after the levee breaches following Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and had a chance encounter with fellow New Orleans evacuees Sam Price (bass, vocals) and Garland Paul (drums, vocals) at John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room on Fillmore Street. They knew each other from having all played together in some form or another in various New Orleans bands, and with the great unknown regarding their return to their underwater hometown looming in the distance, they decided to put together a band and get some gigs going. Fortunately, the Boom Boom Room’s owner Alex Andreas offered the band a weekly gig on the spot.
Sunday nights at the Boom Boom Room soon became a favorite of Bay Area roots music lovers, who have a long-standing affinity for New Orleans music and musicians. Two months into the residency, sound engineer Robert Gatley approached the band with a rare opportunity — he wanted to record a Honey Island Swamp Band album at the legendary Record Plant studios in Sausalito, where he worked. The 7-song eponymous debut “Honey Island Swamp Band” came together beautifully, with Wilkinson and Mulé both contributing favorite originals, and was received so well that they all decided to continue the band upon moving back to New Orleans in 2007.
Honey Island Swamp Band‘s music has been described as “Bayou Americana” with timeless songs from Wilkinson & Mulé, highlighted by Mulé’s searing guitar, Wilkinson’s sure-handed mandolin, and 4-part vocal harmonies, all anchored by the powerful groove of Price & Paul’s Louisiana stomp rhythm section. The addition of Trevor Brooks on Hammond B-3 organ to the HISB family in 2010 has rounded out the band’s sound, which draws from a variety of influences in the world of roots music, including artists such as Lowell George & Little Feat, The Band, Taj Mahal, Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Reed, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and New Orleans’ own Earl King and Dr. John.
In April 2009, the band released its first full-length album entitled Wishing Well. The album was well-received and based on the strength of such songs as “Natural Born Fool”, “Till the Money’s Gone”, and the title track, Wishing Well was awarded 2009′s “Best Blues Album” by OffBeat Magazine, which also named HISB as 2009’s “Best Emerging Artist” and 2010’s “Best Roots Rock Artist”. Most recently HISB won the award for “Best Roots Rock Artist” of 2011 at the Big Easy Awards, New Orleans’ most prestigious arts and entertainment honors.
2010’s Good To You was named to several “Top Ten CDs of 2010″ lists, and has quickly become a staple on the Crescent City’s legendary radio station WWOZ as well as on Sirius/XM Bluesville. It features the southern strut of songs such as “Be Good”, “300 Pounds” and the album’s first single “Chocolate Cake.”
Now the band is gearing up for their first nationally-distributed studio recording, Cane Sugar, on Louisiana Red Hot Records in late July 2013. Produced by Grammy-winning producer John Porter, the 12 new songs illuminate the mix of country-inflected rock, New Orleans funky blues and infectious songwriting that makes Honey Island Swamp Band‘s music so familiar yet unique at the same time. Cane Sugar is by far their most fully-realized recording to date and reflects the finely tuned unit the band has become after incessant touring.
Honey Island Swamp Band:
- Chris Mulé: guitar, resonator, vocals
- Aaron Wilkinson: mandolin, guitar, harmonica, vocals
- Sam Price: bass, vocals
- Garland Paul: drums, vocals
- Trevor Brooks: B-3 organ, piano
NOLA ALERT: If you are a fan of New Orleans music, there is only one place to be on Thursday night. We have just added Marc Stone and Josh Paxton to the lineup for the Honey Island Swamp Band show. Marc is a very busy guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader from New Orleans who is revered in his hometown and, as a consequence, has little need to leave town to perform. We are extremely lucky to get him here for a rare road show. Josh Paxton is among the finest piano players in New Orleans, and he literally wrote the book on James Booker: http://www.amazon.com/The-James-Booker-Collect…/…/0793593379. The baby grand in the cellar is going to get a workout.