Honey Island Swamp Band
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Honey Island Swamp Band

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF
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"Bayou Americana at Music on Main"

“Putting a fire out” can mean a lot of things when coming from the mouth of a touring musician. Mandolinist-vocalist Aaron Wilkinson of Honey Island Swamp Band used the phrase when he dealt with a radiator issue on the band’s touring vehicle just before connecting with me for a brief phone chat.
“Its glamorous rock star stuff,” Wilkinson joked.

The New Orleans-based quartet plays “Bayou Americana” tunes anchored by soaring guitar, sure-handed mandolin and four-part vocal harmony. The band is making its first road trip through Idaho this week, and its performance at Music On Main is one of only two shows its put on in the Rocky Mountain region.

The first thing that caught my attention was how the band formed. While on tour as members of Eric Lindell’s band, Wilkinson and fellow songwriter Chris Mule learned of the levee breaches in NoLa during Hurricane Katrina and realized they were marooned in San Francisco. Unbeknownst to them, bassist Sam Price and drummer Garland Paul were ousted from New Orleans as well, and they landed in California through family connections. The two duos knew of one another from the Crescent City’s music scene, but a chance encounter at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room pointed the four musicians in a new direction.

“The Boom Boom Room is a bar that’s a home away from home for New Orleans musicians, so it’s natural that we all gravitated there,” Wilkinson explained. “Chris and I were literally sitting there one night talking about forming a band to make some money and the other guys [Price and Paul] walked in. We talked to the manager of the club right there and he said ‘sure, you can have every Sunday night.’”

The side project was moved to the front burner when the band moved back to New Orleans in 2007. By 2009, Honey Island Swamp Band had released its first full-length album, Wishing Well, and it was named Best Blues Album at Off Beat Magazine’s 2009 Best of the Beat Awards, where the band was also honored as Best Emerging Artist. Since then, the group has hit the road hard and released another critically acclaimed album, Good to You. The record illuminates the band’s country-inflected rock and New Orleans funky blues that has culminated in a familiar, yet progressive sound.

“It’s been a great time to be in New Orleans,” Wilkinson said. “There has been a lot of rough things [that have] happened to the city, but people there are very resilient, and they are going to celebrate the culture. Making sure that there’s a great Mardi Gras, a great Jazz Fest, great music and food—that’s all a great sense of pride. When locals get backed into a corner, they approach everything with even more enthusiasm.”
- Jackson Hole Weekly


"Bayou Americana at Music on Main"

“Putting a fire out” can mean a lot of things when coming from the mouth of a touring musician. Mandolinist-vocalist Aaron Wilkinson of Honey Island Swamp Band used the phrase when he dealt with a radiator issue on the band’s touring vehicle just before connecting with me for a brief phone chat.
“Its glamorous rock star stuff,” Wilkinson joked.

The New Orleans-based quartet plays “Bayou Americana” tunes anchored by soaring guitar, sure-handed mandolin and four-part vocal harmony. The band is making its first road trip through Idaho this week, and its performance at Music On Main is one of only two shows its put on in the Rocky Mountain region.

The first thing that caught my attention was how the band formed. While on tour as members of Eric Lindell’s band, Wilkinson and fellow songwriter Chris Mule learned of the levee breaches in NoLa during Hurricane Katrina and realized they were marooned in San Francisco. Unbeknownst to them, bassist Sam Price and drummer Garland Paul were ousted from New Orleans as well, and they landed in California through family connections. The two duos knew of one another from the Crescent City’s music scene, but a chance encounter at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room pointed the four musicians in a new direction.

“The Boom Boom Room is a bar that’s a home away from home for New Orleans musicians, so it’s natural that we all gravitated there,” Wilkinson explained. “Chris and I were literally sitting there one night talking about forming a band to make some money and the other guys [Price and Paul] walked in. We talked to the manager of the club right there and he said ‘sure, you can have every Sunday night.’”

The side project was moved to the front burner when the band moved back to New Orleans in 2007. By 2009, Honey Island Swamp Band had released its first full-length album, Wishing Well, and it was named Best Blues Album at Off Beat Magazine’s 2009 Best of the Beat Awards, where the band was also honored as Best Emerging Artist. Since then, the group has hit the road hard and released another critically acclaimed album, Good to You. The record illuminates the band’s country-inflected rock and New Orleans funky blues that has culminated in a familiar, yet progressive sound.

“It’s been a great time to be in New Orleans,” Wilkinson said. “There has been a lot of rough things [that have] happened to the city, but people there are very resilient, and they are going to celebrate the culture. Making sure that there’s a great Mardi Gras, a great Jazz Fest, great music and food—that’s all a great sense of pride. When locals get backed into a corner, they approach everything with even more enthusiasm.”
- Jackson Hole Weekly


"Waterfront Blues Festival 2011: Honey Island Swamp Band"

In 1978, a friend introduced me to a band named “Little Feat”. I don’t remember the exact cassette he popped into the tape player in my Subaru Coupe as we traveled from St. Paul to Ely, Minnesota. But we played it over and over during the six hour trip, and by the time I had reached the North Woods, I was completely hooked on what we decided was “Barnyard Funk”.

Thirty-three years later, I’m watching Honey Island Swamp Band lay down the same difficult-to-describe but completely addicting funk that forces you to head-bob in a pseudo-reggae 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and… To an extent, they even look like what I remember. Thankfully, they aren’t a tribute band. The “Original” Little Feat Band is still around – and even performed at last year’s Blues Festival. They are refugees of the New Orleans flood, and all have sufficient chops individually. They write their own stuff, and perform it with a catchy jump beat.

This isn’t tremendously sophisticated stuff – it’s meant to be danced to. Most of a song is spent on two, maybe three chords pedaled in the background. Vocals are just a phrase or two, repeated several times. Solos are traded around, and syncopate on top of the chords. Garland Paul, the drummer, never stops using the bass drum with a constant throb.

Chris Mulé and A-Ron Wilkinson swap back and forth on guitar, mandolin and harmonica. Their on-stage presence is straight-forward, but they drive the chords with accent notes and those soaring riffs. Again, nothing tremendously sophisticated, but again, nobody cares.

Sam Price spends his time oscillating between previously mentioned chord-pedal, and running bass riffs. There’s none of that fussy minor-seventh-flat-five stuff. Stay in the key and lock in the pocket – it’s his job, and he does it well.

Trevor Brooks knows how to make the Hammond B3 sing. Long, soaring notes – the sole reason the B3 still appears in music today. In a special treat, Brooks swaps out on the final number with Ivan Neville, at the festival with his “Dumpstaphunk.” Neville knows a few tricks with the B3, and makes the crowd crazy-bouncing.

Great stuff – an excellent choice for the second to closing act for the closing day of the Blues Festival. - Oregon Music News


"New Orleans Jazz Fest after hours"

New Orleans (CNN) -- The population of New Orleans isn't big enough that local bands can play to a new crowd every week, so when New Orleans musicians want to make money and new fans, they usually hit the road.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is an exception to that rule, with most local bands staying at home to take advantage of a crowd that -- this time -- comes to them.

For seven days over two weekends, Jazz Fest attracts more than 300,000 music fans to New Orleans. Spread out over a dozen stages, the fest hosts over 450 musical acts from New Orleans and around the world.

Such a large festival opens bands to a big audience, but it also means musicians have tough competition for fest-goers' time.

"At Jazz Fest, there are multiple bands playing at the same time," said Aaron Wilkinson of Honey Island Swamp Band. "You can't count on everyone seeing you at your Jazz Fest set, so you've got to give people opportunities to see you at other times throughout the week."

A relative newcomer to the New Orleans music scene, Honey Island Swamp Band started as a hobby when musicians Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mulé found themselves marooned in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now back in New Orleans, the band plays 200 shows a year, spending most of its time on the road.

During Jazz Fest week, they take advantage of more than 40 New Orleans clubs that host nightly shows in town.

"We'll play 15 or 20 gigs over this week," Mulé said. "Jazz Fest is very influential, because if you get a slot out at the fairgrounds, you have a better opportunity to get booked for a night show."

Of all the festivals Honey Island Swamp Band plays, Wilkinson says, his band gets the most impact out of Jazz Fest.

"We're not traveling, we're not worried about hotels, and we're in our hometown, where we know the music scene better than anybody," he said. "People come down here and want to take a piece of New Orleans and Jazz Fest home with them, so we sell a lot of CDs and T-shirts, and it adds up. It's a big financial help for us. We count on it."

The late-night club scene also provides opportunities for New Orleans musicians to share an audience as bands come together for various shows throughout the week.

"Every show we've played this week, there's been different New Orleans acts with us, and there are a lot of faces in the crowd that I don't recognize," Wilkinson said. "And that's what gets you excited as a musician, because it's great playing for your friends, but you need to play for your friends-friends, and for strangers every night. You need to get a new audience to grow."

With hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country and around the world, a daytime festival that lasts eight hours and a club scene that lasts until sunrise the next morning, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival provides the audience; the bands just have to get a piece of it.

"It's an honor just to get in to play Jazz Fest," Mulé said. "And wherever we go all over the country, at every gig we have, people say, 'I saw you at the Jazz Fest.' " - CNN.com


"New Orleans Jazz Fest after hours"

New Orleans (CNN) -- The population of New Orleans isn't big enough that local bands can play to a new crowd every week, so when New Orleans musicians want to make money and new fans, they usually hit the road.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is an exception to that rule, with most local bands staying at home to take advantage of a crowd that -- this time -- comes to them.

For seven days over two weekends, Jazz Fest attracts more than 300,000 music fans to New Orleans. Spread out over a dozen stages, the fest hosts over 450 musical acts from New Orleans and around the world.

Such a large festival opens bands to a big audience, but it also means musicians have tough competition for fest-goers' time.

"At Jazz Fest, there are multiple bands playing at the same time," said Aaron Wilkinson of Honey Island Swamp Band. "You can't count on everyone seeing you at your Jazz Fest set, so you've got to give people opportunities to see you at other times throughout the week."

A relative newcomer to the New Orleans music scene, Honey Island Swamp Band started as a hobby when musicians Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mulé found themselves marooned in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now back in New Orleans, the band plays 200 shows a year, spending most of its time on the road.

During Jazz Fest week, they take advantage of more than 40 New Orleans clubs that host nightly shows in town.

"We'll play 15 or 20 gigs over this week," Mulé said. "Jazz Fest is very influential, because if you get a slot out at the fairgrounds, you have a better opportunity to get booked for a night show."

Of all the festivals Honey Island Swamp Band plays, Wilkinson says, his band gets the most impact out of Jazz Fest.

"We're not traveling, we're not worried about hotels, and we're in our hometown, where we know the music scene better than anybody," he said. "People come down here and want to take a piece of New Orleans and Jazz Fest home with them, so we sell a lot of CDs and T-shirts, and it adds up. It's a big financial help for us. We count on it."

The late-night club scene also provides opportunities for New Orleans musicians to share an audience as bands come together for various shows throughout the week.

"Every show we've played this week, there's been different New Orleans acts with us, and there are a lot of faces in the crowd that I don't recognize," Wilkinson said. "And that's what gets you excited as a musician, because it's great playing for your friends, but you need to play for your friends-friends, and for strangers every night. You need to get a new audience to grow."

With hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country and around the world, a daytime festival that lasts eight hours and a club scene that lasts until sunrise the next morning, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival provides the audience; the bands just have to get a piece of it.

"It's an honor just to get in to play Jazz Fest," Mulé said. "And wherever we go all over the country, at every gig we have, people say, 'I saw you at the Jazz Fest.' " - CNN.com


"Bayou buzz band has San Francisco roots"

The hottest new band in New Orleans started in San Francisco.

Guitarist Chris Mulé and bassist Aaron Wilkinson were playing with guitarist Eric Lindell on tour in San Francisco when Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005. Everything Wilkinson owned was stashed in his van and his roommate's apartment back in Louisiana.

"It was a trip being thousands of miles away, watching it on TV, not knowing what happened to any of your stuff," he says. "After a couple of weeks, you just wrote it off."

Stranded in San Francisco, unable to reach anybody back home, Mulé and Wilkinson gravitated toward spending their days at the Boom Boom Room on Fillmore Street, a San Francisco nightclub that many New Orleans musicians think of as their home away from home in this town. Mulé and Wilkinson were sitting around the club one afternoon, talking about starting a band, the two songwriters comparing song lists, when in walked two other Katrina refugees, bassist Sam Price and drummer Garland Paul.

Wilkinson switched to mandolin ("Sam was better" on bass, he says). Boom Boom Room proprietor Alex Andreas offered the musicians a regular Sunday night slot. They named the group after a wet patch outside of New Orleans.

When the musicians finally went home more than a year later, they decided to continue as a band in New Orleans and have emerged in the past couple of years as that city's favorite new rock band. A confident, sure-handed mix of clapboard honesty, rugged harmonies and a tough-minded ensemble sound that recalls Little Feat and the Band while always managing to sound like New Orleans, the band retains an enthusiastic following in San Francisco, where the Honey Island Swamp Band returns home Friday to the Boom Boom Room.

"Every time we come to town, people come to see us who were there that first Sunday," says Wilkinson - called "A-Ron" - on the telephone from New Orleans.

"We had a $5 ticket," says Boom Boom Room owner Alex Andreas. "Within two months, they had a steady following. Their style is a combination of things - New Orleans funk, of course, but they can also be almost Bob Dylanesque, and there's some of that Rolling Stones a la 'Black and Blue,' a little bit of reggae. ... People love it in San Francisco."

Although the four musicians knew one another from working the same clubs in New Orleans, they had never played together until they met in San Francisco. But they returned to that highly competitive scene a fully developed band with a roots-rock sound that found an instant home in New Orleans.

"Those were our rehearsals," Wilkinson says. "We were a little rough around the edges. Still are. We were doing pretty well out there. Courtesy FEMA, we were given some assistance with our living expenses. It was a pretty good deal."

Also while in San Francisco, the band recorded several songs at Sausalito's now-defunct Record Plant (where Fleetwood Mac cut "Rumours") that became the first Honey Island Swamp Band EP on their return to New Orleans. After a full album produced by Tom Drummond of Better Than Ezra, the group's second album, last year's "Good to You," has become a staple on the city's community nerve center/FM radio station, WWOZ. The town has embraced the band, whose website describes its music as "Americana meets the bayou."

"We kind of filled a hole," Wilkinson says, "not that there aren't other bands that do what we do. But we are not necessarily the latest in a line of funk bands, although we do take a lot from that. We're more roots rock. We concentrate on the songwriting and the vocals. Turns out there's room for that down here. It's been a nice, easy fit for is. We're thrilled with the way it's going.

"We didn't go into this with any preconceived ideas. We've all been in bands before that tried to manufacture what we have, and it's an uphill battle. It just continues to unfold for us."

They will always remember their beginning in San Francisco. "The Boom Boom Room is our home," he says. "That's where it blossomed into this snowballing thing that's still going. Morale is good when we're coming to San Francisco. We're up on our hind legs."
- San Francisco Chronicle


"Honey Island Swamp Band @ The Mint"

Honey Island Swamp Band swung into the Westside on Saturday, another NOLA nugget appearing at the Mint. This is a New Orleans band that reflects its Katrina Diaspora-Bay Area birth with chunky and soulful jams, tight arrangements and great material. If you are expecting ballads, standards, and second lines, this ain’t that NOLA band. Whether moving easily from moments Dead infused or Dr. John influenced, their self-described Bayou Americana sound never loses sight of its swampy swagger or solo driven joy. The band has kicked ass at Jazzfest the past few years, so a chance to enjoy them here in the Southland was indeed a treat, and to my knowledge, The Mint gig is their first Los Angeles show.

At Fest performances and in the studio, HISB often fattens their arrangements with horns, and Saturday had that taste with Karl Denson sitting in for both sets contributing frequent solos and locking into some killer grooves with Trevor Brooks on keys and Chris Mule’s SG/Strat driven leads. When not providing the good time feel of a summer day front porch harp, Aaron Wilkinson switched between mandolin and his hollow-body Tele, taking the bluegrass string thing into Hendrix/Page territory, while the rhythm section of Sam Price and Garland Paul just kept having too much fun and pushing the band ahead. HISB can swing easily from romps like “Natural Born Fool”, and the Anders Osborne reminiscent “Till the Money’s Gone,” to there and back deep intense jams like “Wishing Well”. While the material is straight ahead, HISB is not shy about stretching out live.

The mixed crowd ranged from music savvy date night couples, thrilled to have the tables gone and the dance floor open for the second set, to the usual NOLA diehards that wouldn’t miss it. The vibe was relaxed and up.

This summer tour behind the their recent Threadhead Records release, “Good to You”, takes HISB from the where it all began of San Francisco’s Boom-Boom Room, to the where it was always meant to be at Tipitina’s in NOLA. I suspect they will be back in the SoCal soon, and playing bigger places. Catch them while you can. - Eye On The Music - Los Angeles, CA


"Honey Island Swamp Band @ The Mint"

Honey Island Swamp Band swung into the Westside on Saturday, another NOLA nugget appearing at the Mint. This is a New Orleans band that reflects its Katrina Diaspora-Bay Area birth with chunky and soulful jams, tight arrangements and great material. If you are expecting ballads, standards, and second lines, this ain’t that NOLA band. Whether moving easily from moments Dead infused or Dr. John influenced, their self-described Bayou Americana sound never loses sight of its swampy swagger or solo driven joy. The band has kicked ass at Jazzfest the past few years, so a chance to enjoy them here in the Southland was indeed a treat, and to my knowledge, The Mint gig is their first Los Angeles show.

At Fest performances and in the studio, HISB often fattens their arrangements with horns, and Saturday had that taste with Karl Denson sitting in for both sets contributing frequent solos and locking into some killer grooves with Trevor Brooks on keys and Chris Mule’s SG/Strat driven leads. When not providing the good time feel of a summer day front porch harp, Aaron Wilkinson switched between mandolin and his hollow-body Tele, taking the bluegrass string thing into Hendrix/Page territory, while the rhythm section of Sam Price and Garland Paul just kept having too much fun and pushing the band ahead. HISB can swing easily from romps like “Natural Born Fool”, and the Anders Osborne reminiscent “Till the Money’s Gone,” to there and back deep intense jams like “Wishing Well”. While the material is straight ahead, HISB is not shy about stretching out live.

The mixed crowd ranged from music savvy date night couples, thrilled to have the tables gone and the dance floor open for the second set, to the usual NOLA diehards that wouldn’t miss it. The vibe was relaxed and up.

This summer tour behind the their recent Threadhead Records release, “Good to You”, takes HISB from the where it all began of San Francisco’s Boom-Boom Room, to the where it was always meant to be at Tipitina’s in NOLA. I suspect they will be back in the SoCal soon, and playing bigger places. Catch them while you can. - Eye On The Music - Los Angeles, CA


"Honey Island Swamp Band comes of age"

It sometimes is possible to pinpoint the exact moment a band comes of age. Having defined their sound, its members articulate it with confidence. They are rewarded with the hoots and hands-in-the-air approval of an appreciative audience that, going forward, will seek them out, buy their CDs and confirm their place in the firmament.

The Honey Island Swamp Band experienced such a moment during the 2011 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell.

At the Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage, the musicians hit all their marks: They plugged their most recent CD, “Good to You,” but not gratuitously; they beefed up their presentation with horns and a percussionist.

For the finale, Honey Island lead guitarist Chris Mulé and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s Jake Eckert mounted a twin-guitar assault on “Josephine,” the sonic equivalent of a fast drive along a curvy stretch of road.

After five years, the Honey Island Swamp Band had arrived.

“We definitely felt that way,” mandolinist/guitarist/ vocalist Aaron Wilkinson recently recalled. “I don’t really get nervous before gigs any more, but backstage before Jazz Fest, I couldn’t sit still. We were all bouncing off the walls, fidgeting.

“(Jazz Fest) is special. You’re in front of your hometown crowd, and your friends, and musicians you look up to. From the stage, the crowd looked huge — it was kind of shocking. But it felt great. It took awhile to come down from that one.”

The Honey Island Swamp Band is back in town for two shows this weekend. On Friday, they headline the weekly “Free Foundation Friday” showcase at Tipitina’s. They’re joined by the Swamp Honeys, a burlesque all-star team that tailors routines to the band’s music, and opening act Uncle Lucius, friends from Austin, Texas. Admission is free.

On Saturday, the Honey Island Swamp Band visits Ruby’s Roadhouse in Mandeville for the first time.

Wilkinson and Mulé were touring with Eric Lindell when Hurricane Katrina stranded them in San Francisco. After the owner of the Boom Boom Room, a Bay Area club that often features Louisiana music, offered them a regular Sunday night gig, they assembled the Honey Island Swamp Band with two other displaced New Orleanians, bassist Sam Price and drummer Garland Paul.

Blues, Southern rock boogie, Appalachian music and New Orleans swamp funk all factor into their sound, but it’s decidedly their own. Melding those various inclinations “is tricky,” Wilkinson said. “Especially in the beginning, we had so many sounds. It’s a good thing, and a potential pitfall. If there was a knock, it was, ‘What kind of band is this?’?”

They eventually found the proper balance, now even more nuanced with the addition of keyboardist Trevor Brooks, a friend of Mulé’s since both attended Florida State University. Brooks previously worked as the road manager for Ivan Neville’s DumpstaPhunk and consults with other keyboardists on the maintenance of Hammond B3 organs.

Lugging a B3 and an equally bulky Leslie speaker on tour is a challenge. The advantage, Wilkinson said, is “you get a little extra respect when you show up pulling a B3.”

Respect also derives from a growing reputation as a formidable live act.

“It comes from playing more gigs and being more confident,” he said. “We’re past the point of writing a set list. We can call songs and be more spontaneous. It’s more playing to the room instead of playing to the set list. Let the crowd dictate which way we go.”

In the band’s first four years, they released an EP and two full-length albums, a necessity — they believed — to get the word out. They plan to take more time with the next album.

Meanwhile, they’ll continue to tour, mixing up clubs and blues and jam-band festivals. They logged their first “international” show last weekend at Canada’s Ottawa Bluesfest, alongside fellow New Orleanians Galactic and Big Sam’s Funky Nation. They’ve reached a point where “we’re doing shows with bands we looked up to, and still look up to,” Wilkinson said.

At the recent Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore., the Honey Island Swamp Band threw down in front of thousands of people in a riverside park, across a field from Dumpstaphunk. In June, the band generated favorable press coverage and full houses for their first gigs in Los Angeles and San Diego.

“All of us have been in bands that have gotten burned down there,” Wilkinson said. “Usually, the first couple times in L.A. you take it on the chin. But both nights were packed. We were patient and did it at the right time.”

Familiar faces dotted the California crowds.

“It was people I’ve seen year after year at Jazz Fest,” he said. “I never knew where they lived.” - New Orleans Times-Picayune


"Honey Island Swamp Band sweetens Thursday morning at Jazz Fest"

Honey Island Swamp Band sweetens Thursday morning at Jazz Fest

By Chris Rose
April 30, 2009

The Honey Island Swamp Band chose their name well. Their opening set on the Gentilly Stage Thursday morning was a jolly rocking, sweet, swampy set of travelin', drinkin' and lovin' trouble songs.

The first notes to travel over the Gentilly Valley were strummed from an electric mandolin, drifting on the wind (and in the tiniest short-lived drizzle). It was a beautiful tone to set the pace for the next 50 minutes of catchy hooks and gen-you-wine blue-eyed soul from one of New Orleans' hardest working barroom bands.


Honey Island frontman Aaron Wilkinson opened the set with a few rollicking hard luck tunes; his grizzled, world-weary baritone that convinces you he has seen it all and means it when he says trouble looks over his shoulder.

He no doubt hates this comparison, but his rich and textured voice recalls Darius Rucker from Hootie and the Blowfish's salad days. And say what you will about Hootie -- that man can sing.

Lead guitarman Chris Mule provided his always scorching solos throughout the set of original tunes, most of them from the band's new record, "Wishing Well."

Although well known around town as a reliable and dexterous sideman ax grinder, Mule has stepped up as a singer and songwriter for Honey Island, laying out soulful melodies in a voice that doesn't quite catch Wilkinson's urgency but can adeptly command the song.

As the energetic set built steam, the quartet grew to nearly a dozen members as back-up singers, a harmonica player and a wall of horns -- including a few 'bones from Bonerama -- joined the party.

And a party it was. The crowd grew slow and steady, settling in for a full menu of Louisiana rocking' from (last minute additions) Jeff & Vida, Theresa Andersson (playing in the same time slot as longtime paramour Anders Osborne over at the Acura Stage) and the subdudes. And then, of course, Emmylou Harris.

Sweet melodies, swampy sounds. Just another day at Jazz Fest.
-----------------------

http://www.nola.com/jazzfest/index.ssf/2009/04/the_honey_island_swamp_band.html
- New Orleans Times-Picayune


"Honey Island Swamp Band steps up with new "Wishing Well""

Honey Island Swamp Band steps up with new "Wishing Well"

By Keith Spera
July 10, 2009

In Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mule found themselves stranded in San Francisco with the rest of soul-blues guitarist Eric Lindell's band.

In need of additional work, they resolved to pool their respective songs and create a new band. At the Boom Boom Room, a home-away-from-home for Louisiana musicians, they encountered fellow New Orleanians Sam Price, a bassist, and Garland Paul, a drummer.

With that, the Honey Island Swamp Band was born.

With Wilkinson on mandolin and Mule spiking his guitar with slide licks, they stand squarely at the intersection of roots rock and country. On Friday, July 10 at the Hi-Ho Lounge, the Honey Island Swamp Band celebrates the release of its second CD, "Wishing Well."

A native of Pensacola, Flor., Wilkinson played bass in high school bands. While earning a creative writing degree at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, he collaborated on music with his roommate, guitarist Tom Leggett.

After graduation, they lit out for New Orleans and founded Idletime. Idletime released a CD in 2000, then ran out of steam. As a journeyman bassist, Wilkinson backed singers Theresa Andersson, Irene Sage and Lynn Drury. After first hearing Lindell, he recalled, "I knew I had to be in that band."

For a time, Wilkinson was Lindell's only permanent bandmember; they'd pick up new drummers for gigs along the way. "It teaches you how to listen on-stage," Wilkinson said. "Because there's no rehearsal, you've got to communicate."

By the time Lindell signed with Chicago blues label Alligator Records in late 2005, his band also included Mule. A New Orleans native, Mule's resume includes funk-rock ensemble All That -- he and Wilkinson first met in the back of the All That touring van -- Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove and Drury's band. He also released a solo album.

Wilkinson and Mule nurtured their creative partnership within the framework of Lindell's music.

"We worked hard together on a lot of that music," Wilkinson said. "I took pride when (the record deal) happened, as it was partly a reward for my hard work, too. Being there when Eric made the jump from local artist to legitimate national act was illuminating."

They had based themselves in San Francisco for one of Lindell's West Coast tours when Katrina hit. Meeting Price and Paul at the Boom Boom Room proved fortuitous.

As a boy, Paul played drums in his church choir; he's performed on Bourbon Street, in blues bands and with reggae act Irie Vibrations. Price, a Slidell native, anchored the New World Funk Ensemble, Afro-Cuban jazz group Otra and the bluegrass band Uptown Okra, among others.

To accommodate Price in their new project, Wilkinson switched from bass to mandolin. The Boom Boom Room gave the newly christened Honey Island Swamp Band a weekly Sunday night gig. The club's sound engineers helped them cut an album. "The next thing you knew, we had a band and a record," Wilkinson said.

They returned to New Orleans in 2007. The Honey Island Swamp Band existed as a side project while Wilkinson and Mule continued to tour and record with Lindell. In November, they left Lindell to focus on their own band.

"These decisions kind of make themselves," Wilkinson said. "Chris and I are grateful for the opportunities Eric gave us. I know for me, any success I've had connecting to audiences or becoming a dynamic performer is a direct result of seeing first-hand how a natural like Eric does it."

Mule is steeped in the New Orleans rhythm & blues of Lee Dorsey and Earl King; Wilkinson tends toward Gram Parsons, George Jones, Taj Mahal and Delbert McClinton. The new "Wishing Well" represents a synthesis of those inclinations.

In the studio, they started with basic song structures, "then would follow our ears from there," Wilkinson said. "We tried to give each song what it needed, whether that meant stripping it down to just me playing guitar and Kirk (Joseph) playing tuba and Chris playing slide, or doing a full arrangement with Marc Adams on organ and a horn section and girls singing background."

Leaving Lindell "is a little bit like starting over, but it's not like starting over from the beginning," Wilkinson said. "It's like starting over, but with a lot more insight and direction that you had the first time.

"We've come up with a band from the very bottom and taken it all the way through to getting signed with a label. We have a lot clearer picture of how that happens, and what we want to do with this band. Instrumentally, vocally, the songwriting...the direction we're going feels right."
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http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2009/07/honey_island_swamp_band_steps.html - New Orleans Times-Picayune


Discography

Good To You - Released April 2010 in association with Threadhead Records

Wishing Well - Released April 2009

Honey Island Swamp Band (EP) - Released May 2006

Photos

Bio

Great music begins with great songs, and great songs are what the Honey Island Swamp Band is all about. The band came together when Aaron Wilkinson (acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Chris Mulé (electric guitar, vocals) were marooned in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. After a chance encounter with fellow New Orleans evacuees Sam Price (bass, vocals) and Garland Paul (drums, vocals), and with no prospects of getting home any time soon, they figured they’d better cook up something new, and quick!

A few days later they had put together a song list, landed a weekly gig at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room, and settled in to share a little taste of Southern culture with their new West coast neighbors. Their 7-song eponymous debut was recorded in 2006 at famed Record Plant studios in Sausalito, CA, and was received so well that the band decided to make the new group priority number one upon moving back to New Orleans in early 2008.

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 – Wishing Well – and on the strength of such songs as "Natural Born Fool", "Till the Money's Gone", and the album's 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 & entertainment honors.

The newest offering from HISB – 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 satellite radio’s Bluesville and traditional stations from coast-to-coast. Featuring the southern strut of songs such as “Be Good”, "300 Pounds" and the album’s first single “Chocolate Cake”, Good To You illuminates the mix of country-inflected rock and New Orleans funky blues that makes Honey Island Swamp Band's music so familiar and unique at the same time.