Hanks Company Band “Herb Deluxe”

JukeJoint500, 2023

Smoky blues rising from the swamp.

On the strength of its rhythmic swampy blues and rasping vocals laden with soul this must be a record made in Louisiana sometime in the early 1970s. If the name Hanks Company Band does not immediately spring to mind surely they are neighbours of JJ Cale, Junior Kimborough or Tony Joe White? Ten tracks later that impression is unshakeable so it comes as a bit of surprise to learn that this album was made in the wetlands of North Wales where Hank resides.

Hanks Company Band’s sultry groove swirls like plumes of thick smoke. And therein lies a clue to the album’s genesis. To quote the man himself, “I just wrote some songs and got all fuzzed up with my new electrified guitar and some of the finest herb deluxe”. Really that is all you need to know. The rest is cosmic boogie played at varying intensities. But before taking the first puff, a bit of context might help.

Hank is Paul Davies who under the same Hanks Company Band released a couple of fine americana/country-leaning albums over the past two years, ‘Hello High’ and ‘Big On Easy’. The band are Mother Moon who, again referring to the PR notes, is credited with vocals, percussion, accordion and magic, Tom The Cosmic Cowboy plays bass, analogue synthesizer and percussion. Finally there is Big Jim, also a percussionist but with the weighty responsibility for “smokes”.

The opening track ‘Kissing The Feet Of The High Princess’ plunges the listener deep into the swamp. Straight away its mesmeric groove evokes Tony Joe White as as repetitive growl of, “Mama you got me gone” suggests Hank’s has reached his preferred state. ‘Rain Shine’ continues in much the same vein although becoming drawn into Hank’s mystical vibe the senses become more attuned to the musical activity going on in the background. The Cosmic Cowboy’s synth buzzing in and out of the consciousness is a feature of the whole album but is particularly effective here.

These two opening tracks feel like the core of the band from which they either turn up the fuzzbox into a complete maelstrom of sound or strip back to a more tranquil sound. ‘Good To Go’ is relentless boogie that is less swamp and more metal. The central riff almost overpowers everything else apart from a wailing harmonica. ‘Done Tryin’’ and closing track ‘All Good For Ass’ are further examples of Hank and Co blowing the doors off their hinges. If these were Hank’s only offering this reviewer may have struggled to complete the course.

Where Hanks Company Band truly excel is in their more relaxed mode. ‘Manifesting Prayer’ turns very JJ Cale as Hank peels away the layers of sound and shows he can sing as well as growl. Harmonising with Mother Moon to a gentle acoustic guitar strum ‘Take Your Time’ celebrates the pure joy of companionship, “there ain’t no mountain with you we can’t climb”. Similarly ‘Your Magic Work Me’ and ‘No Good Boogie Man’ float gently along, their beat is no less secure, just that the acoustic trance does it for this reviewer more than their louder counterparts.

But whether gentle acoustic or fuzzbox bludgeoning there can be no refuting the authenticity of Hanks Company Band, worthy successors to those aforementioned giants of blues and swamp.

7/10
7/10

About Lyndon Bolton 136 Articles
Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between
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