True Believer Reviews
HARD SWIMMIN’ FISH/True Believer: Four piece white boys with the blues that have been kicking around Virginia for the last 20 years pair up with lo-fi meister Mitch Easter for a primitive sounding date that keeps it raw and wild. Rocked up outer edge blues, this sounds like something that was recorded a long time ago when college coffeehouses stalked the earth and filled it with organic sounds---but it’s recorded in the now. It’ll probably be too raw for many, but the level of chops powering the proceeding will generate cult passion as it throws off sparks with the real true believers. Check it out.
Volume 39/Number 295
August 23, 2016
New exciting CD just released by Hard Swimming Fish, our CVBS brother Waverly Milor's Band. HSF has been together now for close to 20 years and with this being there 5th CD release in recent years, many are saying this is their best so far!! True Believer is HSF's 2nd CD produced and recorded by the great Mitch Easters (REM fame) and you can tell by the authentic sound produced on this CD. It has an almost old timey feeling with a high quality production that is hard to resist playing over and over again in the Car CD Player!. With Vocal and guitar work from Demian Lewis, Vocals and Harmonica from Waverly Milor with as strong of a rhythm section you could ask for with Randy Ball on upright Bass and Jason Walker on Cajon, pots, pans and anything else that will make noise, you will be entertained on how these 4 come together to bring one unique and authentic Blues sound from their music.
The title song on this CD (and the first song) puts you right in the mood for the rest of the CD. Hard driving, haunting reverb authentic recording that puts you in deep Mississippi on a hot summer day. Some of my other favorites off the CD are Howlin Wolf's Howlin for My Darlin with almost rockabilly twist to the melody that really works. Demian's guitar work is particularly great as through out the whole CD. An original, Ooh that was Close, is a humorous lyrical venture sung by Waverly that has your feet tapping hanging on to find out how the story ends. One surprise on the CD is the slow (with organ) blues of Need Your Love So Bad sung incredibly well by Waverly Milor. Waverly is know for his hard driving blues, it is great to hear his softer side!! But my Favorite on the CD is The Gospel, Don't Let The Devil Ride, that HSF takes it to an updated hard moving Blues rattler. The song starts with Randy playing the melody on upright and the rest of the band coming in strong. Great emotion and feel. Some amazing percussion from Jason through the CD.
I am pretty hard of new blues coming out, but have to say overall I think HSF has caught something that many bands are missing these days. New updated lyrics with drive and old timey feel. Go get you a copy and there is a surprise in the CD if you listen real closely!!! Well Done HSF!!
Central Virginia Blues Society
"True Believer", the excellent new release from Hard Swimmin' Fish, sounds simultaneously old and new. Overdriven vocals and harmonica give this record the edge of one recorded decades ago. Likely recorded with vintage analog gear, it has the warmth of an old record, but stands up proudly against any modern record. The original songs hold their own, and even surpass, the four time-tested cover songs on the record. "No Shortage of the Blues" stands out as a stellar song, and one impossible to listen to without bobbing one's head."
11 time Wammie award winning singer-songwriter
Authentic. From the start of the first track, which is the CD's title song, "True Believer", through the final track, a traditional song called "Don't Let The Devil Ride", the word "authentic" stuck with me. This blues quartet records as they perform live; with energy, road proven skill, purpose and always thoroughly entertaining!
The combination of passionate vocals, harmonica, drums, stand up bass and resonator guitar, sometimes played with a slide, is nothing like a standard bar band. The Hard Swimmin' Fish are the real deal. You will not be disappointed.
Wammie Award winner, Maryland Entertainment Hall Of Fame inductee and long-time member of the Songwriters' Association of Washington Board of Directors.
One Step Forward Reviews
“One Step Forward is an album of what happens when you bring multiple talented musicians from different Blues Flavors and put them together - Magic!! Not your everyday blues, the CD is jammed packed with high energy blues tunes that touch on Jazz, Jump Blues, Hill Country Blues, Chicago and even a little delta influences in there. The CD rolls along very well and was produced and recorded at the highest of industry standards.
The Guitarist/Singer of the band leads the bands through twists and turns like going through the backroads of Mississippi. I particularly like his vocals and guitar work on the first song on the CD, what a way of starting this energy packed project. Waverly Milor is the talented Singer/Harpist that brings his diverse love of all music into each song. His original Blind Love has always been a favorite of mine and their arrangement of Shake em on down is brilliant. Rounding out the group is Jason Walker on Cajon and other contraptions and Randy Ball on upright. Both that really lay down the foundation for the band.
Nothing but good things to say about this CD and band. Not your typical blues shuffle bands (not that there is anything wrong with that), but if your looking for something lively and new, this is it.”
– Sedalia Blues Society
“Got the CD and didn't realize Demian was in Hard Swimmin' Fish! That's great, been hearing about those guys, so I was delighted to listen...here's some of my impressions:
Great muscular stripped down grooves, rock solid upright playing! Randall's bass could have been a little hotter in the mix (as it seemed to be in "Blind Love")...but that's a bass player talkin'! Love Jason's rim shot sound on the drums, the CD starts with it and I found myself enjoying it whenever it appeared....not too much...but just right.(It scared the livin' bejabbers out of me and our 2 parrots! When I put the CD on the gain was a little too high. I'm writing this from the E.R.) The solos were delightful departures from the usual blues cliche' riddled stuff that's out there these days. Waverly makes every note and tonal opportunity count during his harp solos, and has the rare ability to hold down a supportive groove behind vocals and solos, where many harp players tend to blow willy-nilly over same. In fact, the band displays great restraint throughout, without sacrificing exuberance! Demian's guitar really surprised! Partially 'cos I've known him since he was young, yet had no idea how far he's come! Good work Demian!! His guitar solos are mini-journeys that totally bypass the "grab bag of hackneyed guitar licks" for the satisfying phrases that are honest, communicative and clever. The vocals are handled admirably, in a sort of Bob Hite/ Johnny Winter-esque "shout it" style, "Can't Judge a Book" sounds like you got Bo to do the vocal before he expired! Howdjudodat? My only nitpick is some of the vocal lines could use an infusion of melody, "Blind Love" for instance , the vocalist could have stretched it out a little more, seeking a little more of the inherent melody. A very enjoyable listening experience! If they ever let me up off the mat, I'd like to check these guys out!!”
– Johnny Castle (bass player for the Nighthawks)
Hard Swimmin’ Fish – One Step Forward
When I hear or read the name Mitch Easter, thoughts of a certain kind of music fill my head. The Winston-Salem-based producer/musician was a key part of the success of R.E.M., The dB’s and his own band, Let’s Active. And that’s only naming three from a much longer list. And while all those bands had/have their own sonic personality, they do share a certain sensibility.
All of this makes Hard Swimmin’ Fish‘s One Step Forward a bit unexpected. This electric blues quartet from Frederick, Maryland plays a swinging style of blues that relies on the sonic textures found in hollowbody electric guitar, snare-centric drumming, solid doghouse bass playing, overdriven harp wailing and soulful vocals. And none of that has anything to do with producer Mitch Easter.
At least I didn’t think so until I heard One Step Forward. The brief band-penned liner notes explain that the band generally employs a DIY approach, but that this time ’round they wanted something different. I haven’t heard any of their earlier self-produced material, but one listen to the album makes it clear that Easter knew what to do: set up the mics, get the levels, and then get the hell out of the way. And if that’s not how it went down, it’s how it sounds. The production never calls attention to itself.
The band’s twelve tunes (mostly originals with a few standards mixed in) are successful at holding interest while remaining safely within the (occasionally restrictive) blues idiom. The album highlight is “Hear Your Mama Calling” with its extended blistering lead guitar solo, but all the tracks are good. They swing, they swagger, they deliver.
Genre-defying Talent Soars at Red Wing Roots III, FloydFest 14 (article excerpt)
Hard Swimmin' Fish
This self-described American roots and blues band (do you see a pattern forming here?) had everyone within earshot of their performances dancing to their jammin' combination of Cajun, Caribbean and African-influenced beats. Their musical collaboration sounds like it should be oozing out of the doors of a bar on Bourbon Street. Credit goes to my husband, John Trump, who first caught the Hard Swimmin' Fish Old Time Blues Show and insisted I had to give them a listen. I implore you to do the same.
– Lisa Snedeker
Click HERE for full article