By Peter Merrett
PBS106.7 Melbourne, Australia
* DELTA MOON. “Cabbagetown”.
*Label: Jumping Jack Records.
* Tom Gray : Vocals, Lap Steel Guitar, Guitar, Keyboards, Harmonica on track 9.
* Mark Johnson : Vocals, Mandoguitar, Lap Steel on track 1.
* Franher Joseph : Vocals, Bass, Upright Bass on tracks 3 & 9.
* Marlon Patton : Drums, Percussion.
* Kyshona Armstrong : Vocals on tracks 1, 2, 5, 10.
* Susannah Masarie : Vocals on tracks 1, 2, 4.
* Jon Liebman : Harmonica on track 7.
*** Track 1. – “Rock And Roll Girl” Written by Tom Gray.
Man oh man after the success of the stunning “Low Down” album of 2015 it is just so good to have the guys back. Wonderful Rock & Roll intro infused with Johnson’s lap steel guitar. Gray’s raspy voice has certainly matured into a very distinctive tone that is more than pleasing to hear. Armstrong and Masarie provide the wonderful chorusing background vocals. Potent Atlanta style rockin’ Blues.
*** Track 2. – “The Day Before Tomorrow” Written by Tom Gray.
Continuing in that rock vein of track one this acoustic offering certainly moves along and again Johnson’s lap steel shines. For me the last album established the fact that there are very few bands that are as forceful and creative with the lap steel guitar. Throughout the rhythm section of Joseph and Patton shine as they provide the drive and groove for the band. As for track 1 Armstrong and Masarie again provide the background singing. Another stunning original that has a live feel about it. Brilliant performance and song writing.
*** Track 3. – “Just Lucky I Guess” Written by Tom Gray.
Slowing down the tempo but not the intensity this ballad is absolutely stunning and displays how all of the elements that make up Delta Moon come together. The tonality of the guitar is sublime as Gray vocalises throughout with his gritty sinuous trademark voice. This certainly is an amazing song that not only sounds great but feels the same way also. Quite a standout track from all members of Delta Moon. This is why we Blues hounds love this group so much.
*** Track 4. – “Coolest Fools” Written by Tom Gray.
Southern Blues/Rock that just moves along in the tradition of the great Atlanta groups. Again the trademark guitar sound is sublime but somewhat more subtle than previous tracks but still packs enough of a punch to let you know just who you are listening to. Grays vocals establish the story and carry the song perfectly as the band are stunning from top to bottom. Masarie provides the background voice on this one. Wonderful little love story that is very “cool” indeed.
*** Track 5. – “Refugee” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Extremely topical at this time and the story can certainly start with the native Americans followed by the slaves and then to today’s civil unrest and war in the Middle East. This is a pointed statement at the state of our world and how we treat refugees. Joseph’s bass voice adds a menacing powerful statement throughout as Armstrong breaks it down to its lowest ebb of degradation to the displaced peoples of the world. Throughout the native American beat and cadence is tangible and telling. Thought provoking honest appraisal of just what we have done to fellow humans on mother earth.
*** Track 6. – “Mad About You” Written by Ton Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Patton drives this one along with some very solid drumming that add to the grittiness of a song that introduces Gray’s vocals and electric piano that are expressive and questioning. As with previous tracks Gray and Johnson deliver outstanding guitar that just makes you sit up and say wow. Great track.
*** Track 7. – “Death Letter” Written by Edward James House Jr. ( Son House).
If ever you wanted to cover an artist when you play some of the wickedest steel and lap steel guitar then Lyon, Mississippi’s Son House is that artist. This isn’t just a mere cover but rather a stunning interpretation that brings Son into the 21st century. For me this one has elevated the group to dizzying heights that just moves my soul so much. From Patton’s modern Hip hop style drumming certainly introduces this song very differently to what one would expect but man it works perfectly. Joseph’s bass voice was a masterful stroke to the singing duties of Gray and Johnson as it adds that atmospheric darkness to the recording perfectly. Liebman’s harmonica riffs throughout the background to great effect as the full on guitar attack cuts through to the bone laying bare the soul of a man. Now this is how Son House would want to hear his seminal song. Like the way he played that was just plain brutal to his National guitar, this is just as brutal and so very desirable.
*** Track 8. – “21st Century Man ” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
What a whimsical look at our world around us and ain’t it the truth what with people moving through life staring at some hand held gadget as if their life depended on it. Traversing through life now when you don’t understand or want to understand so called modern technology is a test within itself. Quite laid back instrumentation … “punctuated” by subtle electric piano from Gray. Ahh damn l’m just a 20th century man and proud of it!
*** Track 9. – “Cabbagetown Shuffle” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Now here we have an absolute gem of a back porch Country Blues instrumental that just feels prefect. This epitomises Delta Moon so well as their Southern Roots shine. Gray’s Hawaiian Guitar and Johnson on Bottleneck duel back and forth with effortless ease. Gray also riffs on harmonica as Patton’s brush work on drums sparkles. Now pass me the jug as l need a taste.
*** Track 10. – “Sing Together” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Closing out the album we return to the rockin’ style of track one. Here again we have a social commentary that needs to be said. Delta Moon don’t shy away from what is happening around us. Gray delivers his trademark vocals with a powerful chorus emphasising just what needs to be said. Johnson wails and moans with his slide guitar as Patton calls out with his African drumming reminding us where we come from and are all one. Now this is one helluva Blues album.
So glad to have you back, Delta Moon, and man you have delivered an outstanding Blues album in your very own inimitable style. Never one to follow the mainstream but rather follow your Southern Roots with a sound laden with stunning guitar and vocals. The cover of Son House’s “Death Letter” moved my soul and made me realise just why l and countless others can’t get enough of Delta Moon. Your songs are outstanding and at times very pointed and cutting back the layers of our lives exposing what we chose to ignore. All round the orchestration is brilliant as is the charts and phrasing. There is no filler here as every song can stand alone and shine, this is somewhat rare in this day and age as many albums have that track or two that just doesn’t cut the mustard. Congratulations guys on an outstanding album that will certainly feature highly on favourites lists at the end of the year.