Maybe it’s because they formed in San Francisco; or maybe it’s because they seem more like a family than a band; or maybe it’s because of Chris Mulé’s lyrical guitar leads and Aaron Wilkinson’s raspy Bob Weir-like yowl, but the Honey Island Swamp Band’s gritty, bustling grooves recall mid- Seventies-era Grateful Dead—except these Big Easy boys spice things up with a splash of southern soul. Nearly a year removed from the release of their debut, Wishing Well, the band named after the marshlands just to the northeast of the Big Easy doesn’t miss a beat on their latest effort, Good to You, a sweltering, sunstreaked affair that sneaks up on you like a slow-rolling breeze on a sticky, summer afternoon.
Once again, the team of Wilkinson and Mulé split the songwriting and vocal duties, with Wilkinson at the helm for eight of the disc’s 13 tracks. His songs bear a looser, more rootsy feel, whereas Mulé’s tracks are steeped in soul and R&B. From the sizzling strut of “Chocolate Cake” to the relaxed ride of “Lose that Girl” to the swamp-rock swing of “Country Girl,” any which way you slice it, Good to You’s driving, working-man’s blues and soulful, honky-tonk shuffles make for some of the tastiest tunes coming out of the Crescent City today. “Rod n’ Reel,” the album’s best song, boasts the lines, “Some folks high on cocaine / Some folks stuck on weed / I’m hooked on my baby she’s got the only thing I need.” Now there’s a verse even Dead lyricist Robert Hunter would have been proud to pen.