Preview: Peter Simon with Denton Hatcher at Mud Water

If it seems like I’ve been devoting an inordinate amount of airtime to shows at Mud & Water in this space, it’s because they have been aggressively booking and announcing great new live acts every week, and generally putting on a clinic on how to assemble a diverse live music calender saturated with top tier talent, be it nationally touring bands or deserving local artists.

That being said, this Thursday night’s double bill of Denton Hatcher and Peter Simon continues that streak with a bunch of hardworking homegrown musicians that have really come into their own and carved out their own musical identity and niche in the local scene over the past year. Hatcher starts off the night with a three-piece incarnation of his band The Soapbox Blues, who together have forged a fresh take on southern rock n’ roll, one where country blues mingles with blue eyed soul.

Peter Simon and his band have also cultivated their own particular signature sound in recent months, and it is a pleasure to sit back with a beer and watch them enjoy the fruits of their labor. Simon’s calling card is his rich soulful tenor and his driving yet calculated guitar chops, but he brings much more to the table, namely the quality of his writing and the huge ability of the musicians he works with. Simon’s songs and lyrics have a depth and complexity that belie how accessible and downright infectious they can be. This is due in no small part to the wealth and variety of instrumental talent in his band, which opens up virtually endless possibilities for arranging each song.

For the last couple years, the band has operated as a three man unit, but recently added percussionist Micah Blouin, who rounded out their current (and highly unconventional) four piece lineup several months ago with a fittingly unique minimal drum kit flanked by a host of other blocks, bells and knickknacks. Joel Wilson’s viola floats over the entire band, descending at intervals to add transient flourishes of excitement, anxiety or lament at any given moment. The band also features multi-instrumentalist Ben Herrington, who does as much to elevate and define the bands individual sound as its frontman.

Herrington plays three instruments per set, fortifying the rhythm section with left handed bass lines on the keyboard while his right hand acts as a lead instrument on the other end, answering and echoing in call and response with Simon’s robust and urgent vocals. When not using one keyboard in place of two separate instruments, Herrington adds a considerable amount of texture and cultural flair on the accordion, blending the instrument so naturally into the fabric of the songs that it makes you wonder why every band in the country doesn’t have a guy playing one. He also solely comprises the brass section of the band, turning in timely world class solos on the trombone or sometimes just grabbing it for half a minute mid-song to put his two cents in. Watching him do his thing, you need not wonder whether he could play all three instruments simultaneously… if he only had six hands.

In my humble opinion, these are two of the better bands in Baton Rouge. You can go see both perform for 6 bucks, less than the price of most of those burnt coffee drinks at Starbucks. Do the right thing.

Peter Simon w/ Denton Hatcher, Thursday, February 28 10pm @ Mud & Water, 174 South Street, BR