Delta Moon – Black Cat Oil
By Rhetta Akamatsu
Delta Moon is a very popular band around metro Atlanta, which is where I live. Listening to Black Cat Oil will quickly make clear how they have gained such a loyal and growing following.
All of the songs on this CD are originals, except for an excellent cover of Fred McDowell’s “Write Me a Few of Your Lines.” The rest of the songs were written by founding member Tom Gray, with assistance from fellow founding member Mark Johnson on “Black Cat Oil,” “Wishbone,” “Black Coffee,” and “Jukin’.”
With a solid rhythm section providing a pounding beat and Tom Gray’s slightly ragged-sounding vocals, Black Cat Oil has a great rootsy, bluesy rock sound from the very first song, “Down and Dirty.” The CD was recorded at Atlanta’s Bakos Amp Works studio with a basic drum setup, an upright bass and only three amps, according to the press release. They then used vintage amps and equipment from the ’50s and ’60s to get that authentic, swampy sound.
Every song on this CD is excellent. “Blues in a Bottle,” Tom Gray says, came to him in a dream. In the press release, he explains that he dreamed that a guitarist was trying to decide the best way to play a song called “Blues in a Bottle.” He wished he had come up with that title, “Then I awoke and discovered that I had.” It’s a great blues-rock tune, no matter how he came to write it.
“Walk Out in the River,” is a song about sorrow and hope. It contains one of my favorite images: “There’s a little girl down by the swimming pool side/Blowing bubbles with angels trapped inside/When the bubbles pop, the angels go free/ And they fly away to heaven cross the galaxy.”
The song was inspired by Gray’s bout with cancer. He is okay now, but a friend who also had cancer did not make it. He spun that experience into an incredibly moving song.
“Black Cat Oil” is pure Americana, celebrating, as many blues songs before it, the appeal of voodoo and its easy promises. If things don’t go right with your Black Cat Oil, you just need to use a little more. “Wishbone” and “Black Coffee” are straight blues songs with some really tasty dual slide guitar work from Johnson and Gray.
My favorite song on the CD is “Neon Jesus,” a slow, melodic walk on the wild side of your typical southern city, lighted both physically and emotionally by a neon Jesus on the top of a building. This song resonates with me on so many levels and represents the best qualities of Southern roots music with a contemporary touch.
“Jukin'” lightens the mood with a song in praise of finding those little out-of-the-way clubs and just having a mighty good time. “Sunshine” is a song about maybe not getting what you want, but getting what you need, with a very catchy, hook-filled musical accompaniment.
The last original song on the CD before the great McDowell tune mentioned earlier is “Applejack,” which again features some fantastic guitar work and a joyful tribute to applejack and watermelon wine.
Overall, this CD is about hope and the things that get us through and keep us going. While it is Southern to its core, its message is universal and will touch people wherever they are, giving them a very enjoyable listening experience as well.
Pick up Black Cat Oil and get acquainted with Delta Moon. You’ll be glad you did.