Hard Swimmin’ Fish – True Believer
12 tracks; 51 minutes
Hard Swimmin’ Fish is a four piece band traditional, old-school blues in the Maryland and Virginia area. For their fourth album True Believer they took the increasingly popular crowdfunding approach and the end product is nicely presented in a gatefold cardboard sleeve. The band is Damian Lewis on guitar, banjo and vocals, Waverly Milor on harp and vocals, Randy Ball on upright and electric bass and Jason Walker on drums and percussion; John Sharrer adds organ to one track. Damian is the main writer with six credits, Waverly wrote one tune and the pair co-wrote one and there are four covers.
The CD has a vintage sound with plenty of reverb on the guitar, stripped back drums and upright bass, Waverly’s harp playing alongside Damian’s gruff vocals. Typical is the title track “True Believer”, the sort of tune that might have been associated with Howling Wolf. Damian’s vocals are a little low in the mix on “Five Years Hard Labor” but the insistent harp and his own energetic solo are well done.
Waverly appears to take over on vocals for his own “No Shortage Of The Blues” and he has a similarly tough approach to singing on a tune that features the rhythm section well. A jaunty take on Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Darlin’” follows with Damian’s guitar adding an almost country feel to the familiar song. The joint Lewis/Milor tune is “Ooh That Was Close”, Damian on banjo and overdubbed guitar as he tells a tale of just getting out of a few tricky situations and “Love Me Or You Don’t” is a slower blues in which Damian sings of feeling “just like Job” as he wrestles with the eternal problems of love.
“Come Together” may share a title with a Beatles song but this one is an upbeat country blues that rushes ahead with plenty of resonator slide and harp accents. It precedes the band’s relaxed version of Little Willie John’s “Need Your Love So Bad” to which the organ adds a stately feel but the band returns to more familiar territory with “Get Gone” which has a stop-start rhythm accentuated by Jason playing the rims of his drums.
The final original is the catchy “Once Upon A Time” in which Damian extols a dream partner in pretty explicit terms and plays some solid guitar also! The album concludes with “Mess Around” written for Ray Charles by Ahmet Ertegun under his anagram pseudonym ‘A Nugetre’), here performed with bouncing bass, simple drums, rockabilly guitar and frenetic harp and the traditional gospel “Don’t Let The Devil Ride” which follows the tune for “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. The final four tracks make a great end to this CD which will certainly appeal to fans of traditional blues and vintage sounding recordings.