Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL is May 16-18, 2014 - www.hangoutmusicfest.com

Honey Island Swamp Band: Cane Sugar (Louisiana Red Hot Records)

Honey Island Swamp Band, Cane Sugar, album cover

Good rock ‘n’ roll. You don’t realize how you miss it until it hits you full in the face like it does when you put Cane Sugar on whatever form of music player you utilize. Gifted with the propulsive, hard-hitting rhythm section of drummer Garland Paul and man-about-town bassist Sam Price, songwriters, singers, and string players Aaron Wilkerson and Chris Mule have a great foundation on which to lay their songs. This record shows off better than ever the yin and yang of Wilkerson and Mule. Wilkinson’s voice and songs have a more hopeful tone with the Little Feat-like sound and lyrics of “Black and Blue” and “Strangers.” Mule’s songs are cynical, and a little more grounded. He adds to his fine litany of “fool” songs with “Just Another Fool” and keeps up the defiance with “Cast The First Stone.” Another worthwhile aspect of this band is the way they wear their Southern roots on their sleeve without sounding the least bit derivative. There’s echoes of the Band in the pace of their songs and the mandolin and the Rolling Stones in the cutting slide guitar (we know, neither band was really from the South, but they made good Southern music). There’s also an Allman Brothers vibe with the guitar sound and Trevor Brooks’ piano for “Prodigal Son” and a little Lynyrd Skynyrd sass in the background vocals that come up throughout the record. However, a good time attitude (whether optimistic or defiant) and the way that the band members work off each other distinguishes Cane Sugar from other roots and Southern influenced records. In and of itself, it’s great collection of rockin’ songs.