Honey Slides is the fourth and latest release from Bluerunners, a Louisiana band that creates a wonderfully harmonious gumbo by combining the music of their Cajun heritage with a multitude of influences, ranging from genres, such as alt-rock and the blues, to artists like Clifton Chenir, an originator of Zydeco music, and Neil Young, who is referenced in the album’s title because Honey Slides, fried marijuana covered with honey, is a concoction created by Rusty Kershaw for Neil Young during their work on Young’s On The Beach. Bluerunners are Mark Meaux on mandolin/guitar, who is also the main singer/songwriter, Willy Golden on slide guitar, Adrian Huval on accordion, and the rhythm section of drummer Frank Kincel and bassist Cal Stevenson.
The opening track, “Working Man’s Zydeco,” fades in as the band is already playing, providing a sense that you are walking into the middle of an ongoing, raging party. The accordion is on fire as it leads the band. The singer screams with excitement before he breaks into the lyrics. His enthusiasm and the music are infectious. Even those with no sense of rhythm will find themselves tapping their toes and bobbing their head. You night not even notice that he’s singing in Creole.
In fact, there are four songs sung in Creole, such as “Coulee Rodair,” a classic by Canray Fontenot, a man many consider to be the greatest fiddler of our time. Two of the songs are new tracks, “Valse de Grand-Pere” by Stevenson and “Lune de Minuit” by Huval, yet they have an air of authenticity that allows them to stand alongside the covers.
The whole album is outstanding, but some of the highlights include “The Gravedigger” which takes us even deeper into the swamps with its tribal percussion and fat bass line. “Ghost of a Girl” is a beautiful, acoustic duet with Susan Cowsill about a woman who has “seen way too much world.” It has a lilting, roots-rock vibe to it.
Bob Dylan’s presence is strongly felt on the talking blues “I Got You,” from the story told to the sound of Meaux’s voice. The music shuffles along as the lap steel guitar by the appropriately named Golden shines majestically on the bridges. His influence can also be heard on the dreamy closer “Big Head.”
The band and the engineer make some great sonic choices as they create moods. “Voodoomens and Voodoo Dolls” has a wicked, fuzzed-out guitar a la Young that overpowers Meaux’s vocals. You’ll lock up your daughters and wives when this swamp boogie plays. “Black Cat Bone” is an outdoor party in the moonlight as the vocals are almost overwhelmed by crickets chirping. This song should be played very loud as Golden, once again, tears it up on steel guitar.
The unusual combinations on Honey Slides provide delightful results, much like eating a Cajun meal. You might not be sure what’s in it, but you’ll enjoy the results, which will leave you happy and coming back for more. I highly recommend it.