Honey Island Swamp Band

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.

John Papa Gros

New Orleans native John “Papa” Gros (pronounced grow) has spent more than a quarter-century behind the piano championing the music of the Big Easy. He turns over a new leaf with his second solo album, River’s on Fire, which is set for release August 26th. It’s a record that mixes the sounds of rock & roll, funk and rootsy Americana into a genre-bending gumbo that carries on the tradition of New Orleans, both honoring its past and helping to shape its future.
Inspired by hometown hero and longtime colleague Allen Toussaint, who passed away while Gros was recording the album on the Vermilion bayou in southwest Louisiana, River’s on Fire is John’s first release since his former band, Papa Grows Funk, disbanded in 2013. The quintet held down a weekly residency for more than a dozen years at the famous Maple Leaf Bar in Uptown New Orleans, mixing the smooth sophistication of a jazz quintet with the wild, anything-goes spirit of Mardi Gras. Papa Grows Funk released six critically-acclaimed albums along the way, including Needle in the Groove, which was co-produced by Toussaint — with Gros leading the charge as the group’s front man, songwriter and organ player.
River’s on Fire finds John shifting his songwriting focus back to the instrument that started his lifelong musical journey – the piano. The album reaches far beyond Papa Grows Funk’s groove-based sound and offers listeners a bit of everything — party songs, melancholy numbers, funk tunes and upbeat rockers. The record even finds Gros putting a new spin on “House of Love,” which was originally released on Papa Grows Funk’s Shakin’ album. This time, he revises the track’s groove and focuses more on its sharp, nuanced songwriting.
“Before River’s on Fire, it had been a long time since I had done any songwriting on the piano”, John explains. “Previously, I had done most of my songwriting on guitar. I found that it forced me to focus on simpler chord choices and arrangements. The piano allows me the luxury to create more sophisticated compositions. With the keys I can focus on a balancing act- juggling between complexity and simplicity, while keeping the priority on the lyrics and melody.”
High Five from Papa John GrosWorking with top-shelf collaborators like Grammy award winning co-producer Tracey Freeman (Harry Connick, Jr., ReBirth Brass Band), Grammy award winning mixer Trina Shoemaker (Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow) and guitarist Brian Stoltz (Bob Dylan, Neville Brothers), River’s On Fire finds Gros showcasing his talent on the keys and also furthering his well-deserved reputation as one of New Orleans’ most notable songwriters. Each song has its own distinct personality, with the influence of Allen Toussaint serving as the common denominator or unifying ingredient. River’s on Fire is one life-long Big Easy troubadour and composer paying tribute to another.
“Those are big shoes to fill and big shoes to follow,” John says of Toussaint. “That was the plan, though: to follow Allen’s footsteps with this record. Every song has his stamp on it, whether it’s an obvious line or a subtle trick. I was paying homage to my mentor all along the way.”
Throughout his career, Gros has been a bandleader. A sideman. A singer. An instrumentalist. With River’s on Fire, he becomes a solo artist once again. Just as New Orleans, America’s favorite river town, has had a resurgence recently so has John “Papa” Gros. His role is different, but the goal remains the same: to honor the music he’s been living his whole life, and to add his own page to the New Orleans history book. “I think this album symbolizes both my passion for my music and my love of this town”, Gros muses. “Urban Dictionary defines “Fire” as someone doing something great that is unable to be stopped. I hope Toussaint is smiling down on me from above, urging me forward.”

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