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July 31, 2012
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Going west (again)

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Thursday night concerts on Fanny Hill are known to attract storms, but bad weather is nothing new to Honey Island Swamp Band.

Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mule ended up in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. There they met fellow Big Easy musicians Sam Price and Garland Paul and got a gig playing together at a club in the city.

"We were uprooted by a little bad weather we had down there," joked Wilkinson, who plays guitar and mandolin and sings vocals for the band. "The four of us who started the band, we all for different reasons ended up in San Francisco."

They didn't intend to get together, but one night they all ended up at the Boom Boom Room, which Wilkinson said is a "home away from home" for New Orleans musicians. Wondering what to do while stranded, they asked the club if they could play a gig there, and soon the four of them were playing together weekly on Sunday nights.

"Those were our rehearsals," Wilkinson said. "It's sort of a making the best of a bad situation kind of story."

While out West, Honey Island Swamp Band, which describes its music as "bayou Americana," recorded its eponymous first album in 2006 at the Record Plant in Sausalito, Calif.

"We had barely been a band for not even a year, and we were recording as the guest of this legendary studio," Wilkinson said.

All that playing and developing helped the band hit the ground running when it returned to New Orleans, Wilkinson said. The band has gained some recognition, including an award for best roots rock artist the past two years at the Big Easy Awards. Since moving back in 2008, it has released two more albums and is working on a fourth. The band is already playing material from the new album live.

"Right now we're just happy to be playing some new songs on the road," Wilkinson said.

All the band members are originally from the Gulf Coast. Wilkinson's music career led him to New Orleans.

"I just naturally made my way over here," he said. "It's one of the few places you can play and make a living doing it."

Two winters ago, Honey Island Swamp Band played in Keystone, and the temperature was 40 below. When its van got stuck in some ice, everyone on the tour had to pitch in to push it out.

"We're looking forward to a very different experience this time," Wilkinson said of the band's next Colorado stop in Snowmass Village. Wilkinson traveled around Colorado playing music before the formation of Honey Island Swamp Band, and he said he's wanted to play the outdoor stage on Fanny Hill for some time.

"It's hard not to enjoy yourself when you're surrounded by so much natural beauty," he said.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jul 31, 2012 03:34PM Published Jul 31, 2012 03:31PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.