Honey Island Swamp Band: Custom Deluxe Review

There’s a glorious, glutinous nature to the Honey Island Swamp Band. Formed in San Francisco by five musicians displaced from New Orleans by the deadly Hurricane Katrina, they’ve subsequently returned to their beloved city. Perhaps inspired by home comforts, this acclaimed blues-roots-rock quintet drizzles a generous helping of New Orleans energy over their eclectic new LP Custom Deluxe.

While they may have evolved to embody contemporary roots music, this good vibe outfit traversed by singer and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Wilkinson is a proper hearty stew that never threatens to boil over. From the Americana twist of “Wildfire” to the dirty pleasure of closer “By And By” with its delightful inclusion of harmonica and mandolin, we stumble across an inimitable recipe that stirs rustic and pacifying blues, country, funk, and soul flavors.

Lead single “Gone” was also the first track recorded for the album. Largely an autobiographical penned number, it takes me on a warm ride down the country rock highway, capturing sights and tales from the band’s years on the road.

Bluesy and raspy with a southbound feel, “High River Rag” flows with some invigorating slide guitar and impressive organ work. It’s the very essence of that New Orleans energy I mentioned earlier — if only I could bottle it up and sell it.

“Second Son” is raised on 70’s 70-inspired funk, as popping percussive beats, blasting horn hits, and corking female background vocals in a discourse about drifting through life. Looking “Down The Line” takes me back behind the wheel with its twangy pop and feel-good driving tune vibe. It’s a real sing-along, yet it still stresses that the song remains supreme.

The harmonious guitar riff of “I Don’t Want To Lose” could easily pass as an original composition by the Allman Brothers or The Eagles. It’s beautifully arranged and as smooth as velvety hot chocolate. Keyboardist Chris Spies is on an organ-drenched mission in the oozingly sweet and very danceable “Sugar Sugar.”

Old cars evoke nostalgia, and Custom Deluxe was named after Wilkinson’s old truck (no wonder it’s such a wholesome listen). Seamlessly crossing genres at will, the Honey Island Swamp Band willingly embraces their hybrid southern rock bayou gumbo style, while proudly revving the New Orleans engine. 

The Review: 7.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Second Son
– Down The Line
– I Don’t Want To Lose

The Big Hit

– I Don’t Want To Lose

Buy the album: Amazon

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