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Singin’ the Island Blues

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

(Left to right) Justin James, Dave Ellis, Michael Rogers, and Jake Oleksak released an eponymous album in August. Photograph by Shannon Cunningham Oleksak & album art courtesy of HoneySmoke

November 12, 2014

Singin’ the Island Blues
HoneySmoke harmonizes musical genres in a debut album—hear it live this weekend

WritTen by Devin Grant

Fans weren’t too pleased when The Explorers Club—much-loved for its Beach Boys-tinged pop sound—disbanded in early 2013. But when three of its former members, Dave Ellis, Justin James, and Michael Rogers, formed HoneySmoke soon after and began to explore the blues? Well, a lot of those folks changed their tunes.

“HoneySmoke’s music is a little more raw and organic, a bit unpolished,” says Ellis, who shares lead vocal duties with James. “We are very open with what direction our sound might take, and we began the journey by stripping everything away and getting back to the basics of the music that we like.”

Adding drummer Jake Oleksak to the band in August of 2013, HoneySmoke released its eponymous first album a year later. The seven-song collection is a rambunctious yet reverent tribute to the Delta blues masters, with a taste of Hawaiian and tropical music.

Resonator guitar and scorching harmonica punctuate “The Ballad of HoneySmoke,” the first of five original tracks. (The best of the covers is a groovy take on Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon”). “Sunny California” and “On Holiday” show The Explorers Club influence, while “Sullivan’s Blues,” with its delicately plucked ukulele riffs, is genius in its simplicity.

You can catch the band this Thursday (November 13) at the Going Places Gala and Friday (November 14) on the deck at the Pour House, or at Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville on November 22. Find details on all the shows at

To get the scoop on more local musicians, click here.