Harlis Sweetwater Band
Put It In Dirt
Photography by Chris Salazar, Bill MeDermott and Jessica Mcnew
I’m hopped up man, not on pills, booze, coke or weed, just brain overload; I ‘m on the razzmatazz. Two in the morning and sleepless, six is going to land quick. I’m fucked. So are the neighbors as I am about to blast some Harlis Sweetwater Band to cure what ales me. Off the deep end these days, and loving it. Can you say eviction notice?
Harlis is a guy who somehow blasted out of a swampland massacre and landed in the middle of the Orange County. He’s authentic, real and reeks with talent. His previous endeavors were ballsy barroom brouhaha, and this new shit man, whisky soaked blues of the highest order. Telecaster clarity resounding through springy coils bringing audible elations, enhanced by Harlis’ bottom end vocal. Turbo charged alligator beat got you by the seat of your pants madness. Let’s do this.
I’ve had it escapism prevails in “Goin’ Up the Mountain”. Sick of this shit and heading to the Promised Land sort of feel with sensational slip slide lead guitar. Saxophone and a tad of mouth harp added to the mix making it an exemplary joyride.
“Anna Lee” changes direction forthright with refined elegance, kind of uptown down tempo blues sophisticate. Fabulous brass section gives this cut contemporary city speak. Down on my knees and begging the plea, “Anna Lee” seems to have taken flight and the big man wants her back. I reached out to Harlis Sweetwater to give credit where credit is due, inquiring the identities of the horn players, and just who is Anna Lee.
Harlis ~ “Geoff Yeaton (saxophone) Ken Shaw ( Trumpet) and Jed Thurkettle (Trombone). Anna Lee leans towards a specific gal that I had a relationship with but she is also a few of the woman Ive had relationships with. My life was like the movie “Groundhog Day” for quite awhile, kept making the same mistakes over and over, unwilling to see or change. Its a very auto-biograhical tune. Those poor women, bless ‘em all, they put up with a lot from me. It wasn’t easy.”
“Coolant Blues” digs deep in the south pocket to revel in a lover’s homicidal tendency. Opening bass line brings recollect without too fine a point, and when mouth harp and drums kick in, things just get low down and dirty. Guitar tracks take backseat to harp and organ solos, but then tears loose in retaliation, scorching sonic.
Lord have mercy, it’s them old “Cornbread Blues” featuring some of the most amazing slide pluck and picking acoustic jamboree I have had the pleasure of hearing. The guitar in this recording has got to have some mojo as it shines bright, as does Harlis’ ability to bring the instrument to life. I asked Harlis the year and brand of the amazing sounding guitar used in this recording.
Harlis ~ ”Its an old wood National Resonater guitar that I barrowed from a buddy of mine. Really cool guitar and beautiful. I wanted to use a all brass dobro but wasn’t able to get my hands on one. But I think it came out pretty good.”
The big and bold “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” propels via Harlis’ baritone throaty vocal and musical brass retort. During the chorus the two meld together in sweet refrain. Upbeat double time then soulful musical revue formulates a killer combo. Not one to compare, but, Harlis’ vocals are a cross infectious connection associating the soul of Otis Redding, the bravado of David Clayton-Thomas, and in times like these, the electrification of a certain Welsh singer by the name of Sir Thomas Jones Woodward. Diversity personified.
The full steam ahead directional of “Can You Feel It Too” could tear a honkytonk or embellish a juke joint based on foot stomp alone. Subdued at first, then brought to the foreground the piano track excels and deserves discussion. I inquired as to the identity of this amazing player and some particulars.
Harlis ~ “Sasha Smith does all the Piano, Hammond Organ and Keys on the album. He and I met thru an ad on craigslist. He did the hammond B3 overdubs on the first record “Lights Goin’ Down”. Whats really cool about Sasha is that he came in the day of recording the songs for the new album and without any prior rehearsals with the band or knowledge of the tunes, banged out these amazingly soulful and bluesy parts that just lifted the tunes, live with us as tape was rollin’, a really talented cat.”
Aw, the power of persuasion prevails in “Can’t Make You Love Me”. Full and hearty shuffle skiff that sticks to your ribs kind of goodness. Sleepless ponder coupled with a non-pitiful plea that most can relate, Harlis even includes the listener in the songwriting scenario and the lovelorn quest.
Cut a rug with “Crosstown Woman” and let the good times roll. Tumble down beat gets a dust off and then struts it’s stuff. In the pocket punch and maverick quake gyrate. Just who is the force behind bass and drums on this slice of life? Harlis conveys.
Harlis ~ Jimmy Sena is the drummer for the band , we been ridin’ together quite awhile now. Jason Hosler recently left the group but he was a solid bass player that had been with us a couple years. They both played on all the tracks on the new album… And jimmy does all his own stunts too! Which is pretty good for a cat thats overly concerned with how his hair looks! Haha”
“Muddy Water” is a spiritual baptism of solo stature as Harlis and guitar takes us through a tortured soul sacrifice journey deep in the heart of darkness. Bluer than blue and lighter than light, this track consoles and then redeems listener and performer alike. To me, “Muddy Water” is to be played obsessively in abundant rotation.
“Evil Spirit” channels songsmith dexterity with blues legend clout. Homage to bygone, brought to the now. A Dixon-Howlin’ metamorphic intro beckons us in and it’s the Harlis Sweetwater Band experience that keeps us staying. Ripping lead guitar attack prequels mouth harp perfection. Oh, and the hoochie-koo ivorys just sends me.
Not classified as such, but “12th Street Lonesome Blues” should be a bonus track of sorts, bonus in the fact that it stands alone with exemplary hardcore country western outlaw tendencies, bonus, in the fact that it is a delightful song that rounds out the Harlis Sweetwater Band’s ‘Put It In Dirt’ in perfect fashion and bonus in the fact that it clamors for the Grand Ole Opry.
You catch Harlis Sweetwater Band live with George Thorogood and The Destroyers at The House of Blues in Anaheim California on Saturday September 27, 2014. Check the links below to find out where else the band will be performing and where YOU can get your hands on a copy of this mighty fine release. Stellar!
Harlis Sweetwater Band