Monday, May 9, 2011

The Stone Foxes Sting With A King Bee

Teh Stone FoxesFresh off from releasing their roots-rock and surfing hillbilly LP Bears & Bulls, the Stone Foxes might be second-guessing some of the commercial radio-friendly tracks. They've already cut a new single, one that truly revisits their ability to play blues-rock.

I'm A King Bee re-centers the band on their most successful song from Bears & Bulls, Mr. Hangman. Not only was it their best and bluesiest rocker from album, but Mr. Hangman was an irresistibly retro jam that demonstrated their depth. It also helps fill the void occupied only by The Black Keys on occasion.

While I'm A King Bee might be a cover song, the Stone Foxes add more depth than The Rolling Stones did in 1964. Where the Stones' version added a slide guitar break, the Stone Foxes revive it with a deep, brooding bass line and fuller sound. It's one of the most exciting covers of the song since 1957.

The origins of I'm A King Bee by Slim Harpo.

The original recording was written and recorded as a B-side single by the legendary Slim Harpo, a part-time musician with a swamp grass blues sound that couldn't be duplicated. Dozens of bands have covered it since and it was recently honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award three years ago for its timeless, lasting, and historically significant sound.

Slim HarpoIf you're unfamiliar with Harpo, he was one of several blues artists who helped shape the earliest direction of rock and roll. In addition to the Stones, he has been covered by dozens of greats, including the Pretty Things, the Yardbirds, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, The Kinks, and Them.

Always a favorite of the Rolling Stones, this Baton Rouge son has his career cut short at the age of 46. But Harpo's music has survived for its straightforward melodicism. His songs cross all genres too, helping artists get noticed in everything from country to Cajun to rock. And now again in 2011.

The Stone Foxes are a band to watch.

While the shorter B-side version (called an alternative romp version) doesn't have the bite of I'm A King Bee, the front side of the single strikes all the right chords, bridging the original swampy sound offered up by Harpo and adding a dizzying electric jam that hooks you into the song. It almost seems impossible to conceive that they recorded it for a Jack Daniel's honey commercial.

Not only will the commercial give the Stones Foxes more well-deserved exposure, it will undoubtedly become one of the band's defining moments. I wouldn't be surprised if it, along with Mr. Hangman, sets the tone for their next album. I've included Mr. Hangman as the clip since the commercial only offers a mere 30 seconds.

Like many talented and emerging bands today, the Stone Foxes grew up together. The group consists of members Aaron Mort, and brothers Spence Koehler and Shannon Koehler. (As well as, until recently, Avi Vinocur.) Although based in San Francisco, they originated in the Sierra Foothills. They officially became a band in 2005, with a promise to work out all their songs on stage.

That latter promise is what makes the Stone Foxes exciting to watch live. Much of their material is worked out on stage over a period of months.

I'm A King Bee Is Still Sweet At 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Personally, I think their deep, swampy blues rock is the best, but they have plenty of other great tracks worth discovering. If you dig up a few from their two full-length albums, check out Mr. Hangman, Patience, I Killed Robert Johnson, and Beneath Mt. Sinai. Most are on their Bears & Bulls LP.

I'm A King Bee by the Stone Foxes is available for download on iTunes. The single is also at Amazon. You can find the original version by Slim Harpo off his Greatest Hits. For even more diversity, check out the covers from The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Muddy Waters, and The Doors.
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