Get your weekend off to a rockin’ start with this week’s Music City Roots. Today on the show, John and Jacob will be performing, as well as Honey Island Swamp Band, The Pine Hill Haints, and Kansas Bible Company, with Jim Lauderdale taking over hosting duties.
About the artists:
Sprung from the roots of back-porch pickers, and raised on the harmonies of gospel singers, you don’t have to look far to see that John and Jacob come by their music naturally.
Their days at Pinson Valley High School were spent skipping classes where their real world music education began. Sneaking off to hideout in the school band room the boys were comfortably confined surrounded by instruments. Originally starting a rock band playing local churches and pool halls the two kept returning to their roots of organic acoustic sounds.
With influences like the Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys, John and Jacob are an old spark lighting up the new music scene.
Great music begins with great songs, and great songs are what the Honey Island Swamp Band is all about. The band came together after Aaron Wilkinson (acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Chris Mule’ (electric guitar, vocals) were marooned in San Francisco after the levee breaches following Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and had a chance encounter with fellow New Orleans evacuees Sam Price (bass, vocals) and Garland Paul (drums, vocals) at John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room on Fillmore Street. They knew each other from having all played together in some form or another in various New Orleans bands, and with the great unknown regarding their return to their underwater hometown looming in the distance, they decided to put together a band and get some gigs going. Fortunately, the Boom Boom Room’s owner Alex Andreas offered the band a weekly gig on the spot.
Sunday nights at the Boom Boom Room soon became a favorite of Bay Area roots music lovers, who have a long-standing affinity for New Orleans music and musicians. Two months into the residency, sound engineer Robert Gatley approached the band with a rare opportunity — he wanted to record a Honey Island Swamp Band album at the legendary Record Plant studios in Sausalito, where he worked. The 7-song eponymous debut “Honey Island Swamp Band” came together beautifully, with Wilkinson and Mulé both contributing favorite originals, and was received so well that they all decided to continue the band upon moving back to New Orleans in 2007.
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 entitled Wishing Well. The album was well-received and based on the strength of such songs as “Natural Born Fool”, “Till the Money’s Gone”, and the 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 and entertainment honors.
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 Bluesville. It features the southern strut of songs such as “Be Good”, “300 Pounds” and the album’s first single “Chocolate Cake.”
Now the band is gearing up for their first nationally-distributed studio recording, Cane Sugar, on Louisiana Red Hot Records in late July 2013. Produced by Grammy-winning producer John Porter, the 12 new songs illuminate the mix of country-inflected rock, New Orleans funky blues and infectious songwriting that makes Honey Island Swamp Band‘s music so familiar yet unique at the same time. Cane Sugar is by far their most fully-realized recording to date and reflects the finely tuned unit the band has become after incessant touring.
Taking inspiration from roots music and Southern tales of the supernatural, the Pine Hill Haints play a self-described style of “Alabama ghost country” that touches upon honky tonk, rockabilly, folk, and bluegrass. As a child, Jamie Barrier (vocals, guitar) often joined his grandfather in attending local hootenannies, where he was exposed to the musical traditions of his native Alabama. Later, Barrier honed his own voice by singing in a graveyard — the Pine Hill Cemetery — and formed the raucous rockabilly outfit the Wednesdays while still in elementary school. The Wednesdays would go on to release several albums in the 2000s, but Barrier nevertheless formed the Pine Hill Haints in 1998 as a second (and considerably different) project, piecing together a revolving lineup that ultimately solidified around core members Matt Bakula (washtub bass, banjo), Ben Rhyne (snare drum), and Jamie’s wife, Katie Barrier (washboard, mandolin).
The band issued its earliest recordings (three full-lengths, a 12″ vinyl, and several split albums) on Barrier’s own Arkam Records before attracting attention from K Records’ founder Calvin Johnson, who recorded the band’s next release — You Bury Your Hate in a Shallow Grave — for free. The disc was released on Portland’s LELP label, as was the band’s follow-up EP, Pine Hill Haints Meet Clampitt, Gaddis & Buck. While the Pine Hill Haints retreated back to Arkam for 2005′s Those Who Wander, they were subsequently picked up by K Records and released Ghost Dance, an eclectic album of 20 lo-fi songs.
The Kansas Bible Company came into being during the dog days of summer 2008 at Goshen College in Goshen, In. A band of boys congregated in the garage of Vita House, “life house”, and began playing rock and roll music. Through encounters with aliens, Bible thumpers, holy rollers, cigarette machines, Teenage Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the KBC, as they have come to be known, have stretched the boundaries of space and time.
Through the first two years of being, the Kansas Bible Company played a variety of shows in the Elkhart County area in northern Indiana – from house shows to high school dances to benefits, community events and whatever came their way. They were finding their sound, their style. The band was made up of only seven members at that time.
Over the past year the band has added four new members and has seen incredible growth in musical ability. Their sound and performance has matured. In the fall of 2010, the boys decided to pursue music seriously. They have been playing shows regularly throughout Indiana and southern Michigan, and moved to Nashville in the late summer of 2011. Since then they have really been cookin’.
Moving to Nashville has been an incredible, almost unthinkable step for the Company. How do eleven people move to a new city, some even dropping out of college, to pursue rock and roll music? How does one build such a planet? It takes trust, faith, confidence, and a lot of good old fashioned common sense. They found a huge house that could fit them all, a bedroom each, four full baths, large common rooms, and practice space big enough to accommodate eleven young gentlemen. All at a rock bottom price. There was one catch- the house was in shambles. The first month they had work on their hands. Cleaning, painting, fixing, and thank the lord, music, became their full time jobs. They turned the decrepit house into a home. It is now even complete with a musical venue and bar – the Red Rum Saloon. Christened “Hotel Chicamauga” after the street they live on in east Nashville, their house is a beacon for music lovers everywhere. With such an accomplished challenge under the Company’s belt, they are closer than ever. The music is literally pouring out of their souls. They are working their way into the music scene in Nashville and playing venues throughout the midwest and the south.
Many things set this band apart from other groups. They are a large group with a full horn section, a rarity in such a young, independent, rock and roll band. The Kansas Bible Company is first and foremost a group of close friends that live and work communally together. They are more than just a group of musicians. They do everything together – eat, sleep, work, workout, shop, camp, talk, philosophize, etc. And playing music is at the center of it all. The community they share comes through in their music, it goes hand in hand. An audience member can see the connection they share on stage. Their chemistry is electric. Often times they will refer to each other as brothers. A band of 11 brothers playing rock and roll, surf and soul.