With their self-titled debut EP, the Blue Water Highway Band has burst onto the scene with guns blazing. The Blue Water Highway Band EP is an eclectic and well-rounded collection of six songs that cover the spectrum of Americana/Folk music. BWHB consists of 5 classically trained musicians who, while young, are certainly at home on the stage or in the studio. Frontman, Zack Kibodeaux, is an opera-trained vocalist whose voice is clear, strong, and pure. The power of his vocals lies in their clarity and focus. Zack has left behind the intricacies of opera for a more direct approach, blending his vocals seamlessly with the honest and subtle lyrics he has written. Multi-instrumentalist, Greg Essington, puts in a great performance as well on the album. His list of instruments featured on the project include: guitar, banjo, mandolin, accordion, piano, and organ. The musicality of the album is intricate and well-woven, but never over-done or pretentious. Perhaps the most impressive fact about the album is that these young men recorded and mixed it themselves.
The album’s opening song, “Good Morning Rose,” is a strong ballad. Easy-listening and melodic, the track is a great starting point. Kibodeaux’s vocals and lyrics are strong and up-front in this offering, taking center stage. “Steamboat Song,” the album’s second track is pure folk story-telling; a historic song about the riverboats of a bygone era. Influences from Zack and Greg’s upbringing on the Gulf Coast lend themselves strongly in this piece. The instrumentation is whimsical and timeless, perfectly setting the tone needed for this type of song. Next comes “The Elements,” featuring haunting harmonies with Catherine Clark, and a beautiful accompaniment.
The fourth installment, “Miss California and the Bad Man,” is the most rockin’ song on the album with electric guitar leading the way. This track also features the strongest lyrics on the album, with my particular favorite being, “He’s a bad, high roller. Never thought he’d live this long, but all he wanted was a shoulder to cry on.”The song’s vivid imagery makes for a great piece of story-telling. “Evangeline,” is the group’s fifth song and the crown jewel of the project. A piano-laden, blue-eyed soul ballad, “Evangeline” has the sound and feeling of a classic. Upon the first listen, you immediately wonder if this is a track you’ve heard before. Without wanting to solicit comparisons to some of the greats, this song is reminiscent in ways of Elton John or James Taylor.
The final installment is a light-hearted folk piece that ends the album with a smile that will be especially endearing to those listeners familiar to the San Marcos area the band is based in. “Hays County Jailhouse,” is fun fare, and once again highlights Kibodeaux’s skill as a story-teller. The Bluewater Highway Band EP is one of the most unique and exciting albums I have had the honor of listening to in quite some time. There is an obvious amount of talent and skill in this group and one can only imagine that as they gain experience and time together this band could become a mainstay on the Americana/Folk scene.