Asheville Citizen-Times, Dec. 31, 2010

Atlanta blues-rockers Delta Moon play Asheville New Year’s Eve

By Laura Blackley
Asheville Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE – Atlanta-based blues-infused combo Delta Moon takes the stage at the Fairview Tavern tonight for a New Year’s party drenched in bottleneck slide and whiskey-soaked anthems.

The band, fronted by the dual slide guitar attack of Tom Gray and Mark Johnson, has seen its share of changes over the years, but now sports a solid lineup, a new album and a smokin’ live show.

“I’m not even thinking of Delta Moon as a blues band anymore,” says Gray, guitarist and singer for the band. “I mean, we’re always rooted in that style, but the songs themselves, we’re just not taking a traditional blues approach when writing them.”

Gray was one of Atlanta’s hot rock stars in the 1980s with the band The Brains.

He met his partner-in-crime and co-lead guitarist Johnson at a music store in Atlanta in the early 1990s.

Gray tried to sell Johnson a dobro out of the back of his van and recalls the girl Johnson was with leaning over and saying, “Let’s get out of here.”

Although the dobro sale may have been ill-fated, the musical partnership was not.

The two began trading licks and performing in coffee shops and barbecue joints all over Atlanta.

“We’ve been playing so long together that we just seem to be able to anticipate what the other guy’s gonna do,” Gray says. “We also challenge each other.

“A lot of times, when you’re playing music together, people seem to want to be so nice to each other. Mark will call me up and say ‘Man, your tone sucked last night! You need to buy a new amp!’” he says.

“You always know where you stand with him.”

The band has undergone a number of personnel changes over the years, but seems to have hit its stride with the current four-piece ensemble, consisting of Gray and Johnson, in addition to drummer Darren Stanley and bassist Franher Joseph.

“(This incarnation) has been together for about three years,” Gray says. “Everybody gets along real well on and offstage. We actually enjoy the long hours of traveling around in the van.”

Delta Moon released “Hellbound Train,” its sixth CD, in April on Red Parlor Records, an independent label based in New York.

“All of our records before this one, we released ourselves,” Gray says. “It’s a lot of work, and it seems sometimes that you just can’t get it all done the way it needs to be done.

“In the past, we had passed on several potential record deals because we just didn’t want to give up the control. (But) we’re still producing our own albums, and we’re still doing it on our own schedule.”

The band takes the stage at 9 p.m. at Fairview Tavern today.

“You know a New Year’s show is a lot different from a Sunday afternoon show,” Gray laughs. “It’s gonna be a good time.

“We really believe that our show is a two-way thing. We’re giving all we’ve got up onstage, and if the audience doesn’t give it back to us, we’ll go get ’em. I tell people, a band with two different slide guitar players sounds like it ought to be a catfight, but it doesn’t have to be.”

Laura Blackley writes about music for take5. E-mail her at laurablackleyband@yahoo.com.

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