Normally, Honey Island Swamp Band can be found on the stages of our local festivals, or on tour across the country. But, today, they take a break from their busy playing schedule to let us know what they're listening to.
The New Orleans band came together during post-K evacuation, as all of the members were marooned in San Francisco. Since then, the five-piece outfit has released two albums that exemplify their mix of swamp pop, rock and blues - all sprinkled with a heaping helping of mandolin. Tomorrow night, they're playing Tip's. In case the music wasn't enough, the band will be joined by Swamp Honey Burlesque for the gig. Later this month, they'll be back in town for Halloween weekend, including a stop an Oct. 28 stop at Voodoo Fest. Catch up with them before they're gone.
Before you go, check out what's on their car stereo:
From the Band: We’re on the road a whole lot, so we’re constantly on the hunt for new music to pass the hours. These are some songs that seem to get turned up every time they come up in the rotation.
1. "Ain’t that Lovin You Baby," Jimmy Reed
We listen to a LOT of old blues, mostly on tapes we pick up in gas stations and truck stops on the road. Jimmy Reed is one of our favorites; he was really a pioneer. Chris Mule, our guitarist and the other main songwriter in the band, has been reading Keith Richard’s biography and I guess Keith just goes on and on about Jimmy and how he spent hours trying to figure out his guitar technique. We’ve done a fair amount of that as well, and Chris has discovered some really cool turnarounds and things Jimmy did that were, shall we say, unconventional. We cover several of his songs from time to time, but this one has been popping up in our sets most often lately.
2. "(I Want To Be) A Better Man," The Ethiopians
We played the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon this past 4th of July. It was a killer festival and everyone told us we had to check out this amazing independent record store, Millennium Music, while we were in town. So the next day we went and it was just ridiculous, all this incredible stuff we’d never seen or heard of. The reggae section was huge and I knew of the Ethiopians but had never seen this much of their stuff. This song is off of a compilation by Trojan records that had like 30 songs on it, all of them really great. We love this old reggae and rock steady, that Studio One sound. It’s really warm and the vocals are all fuzzy and overdriven when they sing the loudest. You’d never hear that today, they would want to record it again to get it clean. But that old imperfect sound is what knocks me out.
3. "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)," Iron and Wine
Sam Beam, the mastermind Iron and Wine, is a genius I think. His early stuff is fantastic, very purist folk, just him and an acoustic guitar, but on his later albums he really starts experimenting with all kinds of instruments and percussion and electronic sounds. Still though, at the heart is the folk stuff – that acoustic guitar, his voice, which is great, and his lyrics, which are really complex and unique. This song is a great example of how imaginative this guy is – especially in middle break-down where there is all this crazy feed back and percussion and wah wah guitar and electric noise – it’s seems like nothing is off limits sonically and that’s really liberating. Because there are so many subtleties, Iron and Wine is great listening for headphones too – this album got me through a root canal recently!
4. "Open Pit Mine," George Jones
I grew up listening to my parents’ country records – my mom was like the biggest Kenny Rogers fan ever. I dug that stuff too – still do – but later I got into the darker stuff, outlaw country I guess some would call it. George Jones has had plenty of typical light-hearted country hits in his day, but he has this ability to deliver something sinister with such a straight face it’s like twice as spooky. Also, he’s made so much music there are all kinds of great obscure songs to discover. This one is off of some compilation we picked up at a truck stop somewhere – we get a lot of our music that way. It’s about a guy who slaves away in a mine in Arizona, and spends all his money on his girl, buys her a ring in all. When he catches her two-timing he shoots her and buries her in the mine. George sings the line like he’s talking about walking down the street, totally cold blooded, no emotion whatsoever. I love that. One other thing about this track I love, you can hear the record crackling, even though it’s a CD. I don’t get that, but I love it.
5. "B Movie Boxcar Blues," Delbert McClinton
Delbert is a big influence on us, he was one of the first artists to have albums on the rock and country charts at the same time, and we like to kind of navigate the same territory. Some of his earliest stuff was done with Glen Clark, a keyboardist and songwriter who went on to a minor acting career in Hollywood. This song is off their first album, Delbert and Glen; I wanna say it was recorded in like ’72. You won’t find this on iTunes, you’ll have to search for it, but it’s so bad ass! It’s the opposite of over-produced, slick L.A. stuff, the drum sounds and guitar sounds are so killer. He’s got one of the best lines I’ve ever heard in this song – “the way she did what she did when she did what she did to me made me think of you.” That’s tough enough.
6. "Satisfied ‘N Tickled Too," Taj Mahal
For years you could only get this song on vinyl, it was one of those gems that never made it to CD. I lost my copy of the record in Katrina and it was the first record I went out looking for when I started my collection again. Taj is known for his blues, but my favorite songs of his are the ones that combine the blues with reggae, or a reggae feel. This track has that loose reggae vibe, but there’s also some kid of African influence in the guitar line that just kid of wanders through the song. Then he’s singing these classic blues lyrics over it. I don’t know what it is but this song just relaxes me – it’s one of those I could listen to a million times and never get tired of it.
Allen Toussaint needs no introduction, especially in New Orleans where he is obviously a living legend. Besides being a great songwriter, he does so many cool things with his arrangements. In this song, for instance, he’s got this counter melody going on during the chorus that you would normally expect to be done with horns. But here he does it with a vocal harmony line – the whole “didn’t he . . . “ bit. Little unexpected things like that pop up all over his music, and as a songwriter it reminds you to think outside the box. I’ve always heard that Allen didn’t like his own voice but I can’t see why; I think it’s great.
8. "Fool Yourself," Little Feat
Little Feat is another big influence on us; Lowell George is one of Chris’ favorite guitarists and singers. Before their drummer Richie Heyward died recently, we had the privilege of playing a benefit for him at the Howlin Wolf here in New Orleans. Towards the end of the show the remaining members of Little Feat came out and did a few numbers, sharing the stage with a lot of the local musicians. Anders Osborne, a friend and one of my favorite artists in town, did this song with Paul and Fred from LF and it was just totally epic. Probably my favorite Little Feat song and that live version put chills down my spine.
9. "Day Tripper," The Beatles
We’ve been checking out a lot of the old Beatles stuff lately, and it turns out this song was never even on an album, if you can believe that. This is another compilation we found on tape; I had the same tape as a kid and wore it out one summer on my Walkman while I was mowing lawns. One side of the earphones was always going out and all the sudden you’d be left with no lead vocals or no lead guitar. It pissed me off at the time, but really I was learning an important lesson about how George Martin mixed those classic Beatles hits, with the different voices and instruments panned to different sides of the mix. This song just rocks, my favorite part is how Paul’s bass line comes rolling in like thunder after the breakdown at the end.
10, "Ain’t Wastin Time No More," Allman Brothers
One of our best friends and fans from Chicago blessed us recently with a stack of live Allman Brothers bootlegs. In addition to a lot of great early stuff with Dwayne Allman, there’s a ton of killer recent shows. Derek Trucks is really a true genius and to say that we’ve spent a lot of time listening to his work would be an understatement. This track is from the Jazz Fest Live series recoded in 2010. We were in the audience that day and I just remember that when Derek would play a solo, it would be so incredible and end so perfectly and naturally that it when it was over it would take a few seconds before it fully registered with you what you had just witnessed. He might be the best guitarist alive today.
Dead Huey Long, Emma Boyce, Elizabeth Davas, Ian Hoch, Lindsay Mack, Anna Gaca, Jason Raymond, Lee Matalone, Phil Yiannopoulos, Joe Shriner, Chris Staudinger, Chef Anthony Scanio, Tierney Monaghan, Stacy Coco, Rob Ingraham,