Some people make solo albums so they can do something much different than their regular band; others do it just because the band already has enough material. The solo-band debut by Honey Island Swamp Band bassist Price falls into the second category: Though the HISB already has two prolific songwriters, any of the five songs on Price’s CD would’ve worked fine on their last album. The arrangements are a bit different here—more textured, less guitar-driven, and he understandably keeps the bass turned up—but there’s nothing here that fans of the HISB’s brand of groove-rock won’t dig.
“Where I Want to Be” opens the disc with a nice local shout-out: Proclaiming his funkiness, the singer says “I’m like WWOZ.” And he does wind up referencing some of the station’s favorite sounds, with a Meters nod in “Down to You” and soulful Southern rock getting a spin on “I Am” (which somehow reminds me of the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “So Into You”). Another thing you ideally hear on ’OZ is a lot of Allen Toussaint, whose spirit is all over Price’s disc. For one thing, “Keep On Pushing” is up the same inspirational alley as “Yes We Can Can.” And I can’t say whether “Sign of Me” was meant as a Toussaint tribute, but to these ears it registers as one. Musically, it harks back to the deep soul on his ’70s Reprise albums, and Price’s vocal here has some of the same inflections. And the lyric—about the singer’s wish to enrich humanity just a little, and to “leave a sign of me” when he’s gone—seem a fitting salute to a man who did just that.
The band’s live-sounding workouts keep this on the right side of the line between slavish throwback and update to the tradition. The one complaint I’d make is that he drops a couple clunky rhymes into the lyrics—“money” with “honey” in one song, “love” with “God above” in another—but the spirits are too high for those to bring them down.
Sam Price & the True Believers will be at the Ugly Dog Saloon at 8:30 p.m. on May 4.