Honey Island

REVIEW: Honey Island Swamp Band “Custom Deluxe”


Honey Island Swamp Band – Custom Deluxe

Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Wilkinson and his fellow Honey Island Swamp bandmates feel right at home on their eclectic new album, Custom Deluxe. These songs are like entrees of the tastiest New Orleans sounds, fusing roots, blues, Southern rock and beyond. It’s gumbo with gusto.

“High River Rag” is bluesy, raspy and has that New Orleans energy; it’s like the Allman Brothers and the Neville Brothers all in one. While not kin by blood, guitarist and vocalist

Lee Yankie (whose slide-playing on this track and others is tasty and zestful), bassist Sam Price, keyboardist Chris Spies and drummer/vocalist Garland Paul are certainly brothers in soul, as is indicated in all 10 Custom Deluxe tracks.

Honey Island Swamp Band’s new album is polished, smooth (like honey) and groovy. Take “Second Son,” for example. Garland Paul’s percussive beats here are reminiscent of the late Levon Helm. 

Another highlight of Custom Deluxe – an album named after Wilkinson’s old reliable truck – is “Down the Line,” which has all the best elements of Southern rock. It’s a feel-good driving tune, one that elevates and gets you singing along. It’s got a warm 70s vibe that stays in your system. 

“I Don’t Want to Lose” is about as smooth as it gets, the harmonies are butter, at times reminiscent of The Eagles. This is a beautiful, sincere song that’s relatable and gets you singing along. Wilkinson’s banjo playing is a nice touch, too. Perhaps the best part of this song, however, is Wilkinson and Yankie’s harmonious guitar riffs, which instantly reminds me of the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica.” It’s gorgeous, and tremendously well-arranged. The transitions are seamless (credit to Custom Deluxe producer Jack Miele and co-producer Wilkinson). 

What I love about this album is all the good vibes. “Sugar for Sugar” is a danceable, feel-good love song with contagious excitement toward an irresistible woman. It’s fun, catchy and Spies’ keys are delicious. He couldn’t compliment the song any better. “Bone Shaker” keeps the good times rolling with what feels like Dr. John’s influence. The unison vocals are effective, and, once again, there’s a phenomenal drum breakdown by Garland Paul. Sam Price really shines on bass, coming in with Garland, playing octaves and really making the listener move. The build into Yankie’s bone-shaking guitar solo is my favorite part of the album. 

And “By and By” is the perfect ending, with harmonica playing (he also plays guitar, mandolin and bass on this track) by Wilkinson that is both sorrowful and hopeful. “By and By,” like the album, is wholesome, rhythmic and a pleasure to listen to. I highly recommend you listen to Custom Deluxe all the way through. Like Wilkinson’s old truck, it won’t let you down.

Highlights: “High River Rag,” “Second Son,” “I Don’t Want to Lose,” “Bone Shaker”

Custom Deluxe releases on Oct. 27 via Color Red Music. The album was recorded at various studios around the United States while the band was on tour, including Scanhope Sound in Colorado and the Music Shed in New Orleans, the band’s stomping ground.  

For more information, or to purchase the album, go to https://www.honeyislandswampband.com

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