Hard Swimmin’ Fish have got some flippin’ good taste in music : Muddy Waters, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf. On their new album they even take on a song made famous by the mighty Howlin’ Wolf himself – and succeed in kicking some ass :
Hard Swimmin’ Fish – Howlin’ for my Darlin’
Singer Demien Lewis claims responsibility for the band name : “I have this stepfather, and he is kind of a one-of-a-kind individual. He and I did home improvement work together. If you put in a good day’s work, he’d look around, and say, ‘Man, you are one hard-swimmin’ fish!’ We liked the sound of that.” Demien is joined by Waverly Milor on blues harmonica and vocals, Randy Ball on upright bass and bass guitar, and drummer Jason Walker. Demien, Randy and Jason had been playing together in Maryland for several years already before becoming Hard Swimmin’ Fish, and the quartet was completed when Waverly joined then in 2008. The band was working hard, but money was tight :
“We recorded our first album on a portable studio in the t-shirt warehouse in which Randy worked, with one microphone in the centre of the band. And it came out pretty killer! We moved up in the world and built (out of mud and straw, no less!) a studio building at Randy’s house … It was there that we recorded our second album … Our third album was recorded live at the old train station in Shepherdstown.”
Then for album four, One Step Forward (2014), they brought in a producer, Mitch Easter, who got what they were trying to do, and helped them create that lo-fi old-timey sound. With the band now writing most of their own songs, the album title seemed pretty appropriate.
True Believer (2016) was financed by crowdfunding.
“Because we want all of your contributions to go directly into the creation of the album we’ve stuck to our DIY mentality and produced this campaign without outside costs, doing all the storyboarding, filming, editing, and copywriting ourselves. The cost of album art is taken care of using the incredible talents of our own Randy Ball … We’re heading into the studio well prepared …”
The album’s packed with great driving blues tracks on which Easter has again worked his magic; the vocals sound so rootsy and authentic that you wouldn’t believe this has only just been recorded :
Hard Swimmin’ Fish – Come Together
Hard Swimmin’ Fish – Mess Around
The band show their versatility with the soul classic Need Your Love So Bad and the gospel blues Don’t let the Devil Ride. But it’s perhaps in the original songs that the band’s character comes out most strongly, as they take a cynical but lighthearted view of male / female relations. This is the title track :
Hard Swimmin’ Fish – True Believer