Review: Honey Island Swamp Band’s “Cane Sugar”

Based out of the Big Easy, Honey Island Swamp Band is comprised of five vocalists: Aaron Wilkinson (guitar and harmonica), Chris Mule (guitar), Sam Price (bass), Garland Paul (drums) and Trevor Brooks (piano). The band formed in New Orleans prior to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

HISB’s fourth studio album, “Cane Sugar,” delivers sweet harmonies, intelligent lyrics and instrumentation that strengthens one’s faith in rock ‘n’ roll.

“Cane Sugar” is also HISB’s first nationally distributed project. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer John Porter, the album’s 12 tracks feature a mix of country-influenced rock and New Orleans’ signature funky blues along with sophisticated lyrics, all of which give the music a fresh, yet familiar feel.

The band received plenty of help on their latest endeavor, with various musicians lending their talents on the harmonica, saxophone, banjo and more. Throughout the album, the variety of instruments never clashes but instead blends seamlessly to embody the essence of a live performance.

There are no particular standout tracks on the album, since the band did not want to release a single-driven record. Each track effortlessly transitions to the next with four-part vocal harmonies and smooth melodies that pay homage to inspirational artists such as New Orleans’ Earl King and Dr. John.

The subjects throughout the songs in the album are neither dull nor repetitive.  In “Cast the First Stone,” the lyrics cry of sin and balance the idea of heaven with the desire for a comfortable life. The band speaks of pain and heartbreak in “Miss What I Got.”

“Pills” ironically implies a sense of serenity in the darkness of drug addiction.

Filled with music that can be played at a huge headline-filled festival or the small stage of a local coffee shop, “Cane Sugar” is a masterpiece. Having toured prior to recording, HISB’s latest project reflects the band’s growth and maturity. With many magazine features and awards already under its belt, this group is destined for stardom.

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